Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is the feeling of not having an adequate amount of saliva in the mouth. It affects almost everyone from time to time, but when it happens most of the time, it’s probably worth a visit with a dentist or doctor to get at the root of the problem.
People can get frequent dry mouth for many reasons. It frequently occurs as people age, though it is not considered a normal part of aging. Persistent dry mouth is also related to many diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome and diabetes. Several medications as well as medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy cause dry mouth. And nerve damage can also lead to dry mouth.
Symptoms and Complications
Beyond just the unpleasant sensation of having a dry mouth, this condition can cause other problems, as well. A dry mouth can lead to problems with chewing and swallowing, and sometimes with speech or taste. People with dry mouth frequently develop mouth sores and infections, as well as cracked lips or a rough tongue. A burning sensation in the mouth is not uncommon. Eventually, dry mouth can lead to teeth and gum problems, and it can also be a warning sign of a systemic problem, such as diabetes, elsewhere in the body.
A variety of at-home and medical therapies can address the problem of frequent dry mouth. You can start by drinking more water and avoiding things that dry out the mouth, including tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. Sugarless gum and sugarless hard candy can also stimulate saliva flow, and running a humidifier at night may help. Regular brushing, flossing and dental visits are also a must to keep your mouth healthy.
A dentist can prescribe medication to stimulate the saliva glands or artificial saliva to help with frequent dry mouth. And if the problem is related to medication, your doctor may be able to change a prescription to alleviate the problem.
Sources: U.S. National Institute on Aging; U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research