Do you experience problems swallowing, speaking, have a constantly sore throat, or just feel like no matter how much water you drink, it isn’t enough? Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands are not working properly. These salivary glands help keep the mouth moist, which helps to prevent tooth decay and other problems in the mouth. Saliva is very important to overall oral health – it is a natural defense for the teeth and rinses away food particles, neutralizes potentially harmful acids, and provides enzymes to help digest food. Without adequate saliva, people are at risk for damaging their teeth.
Dry mouth can have many causes. It can occur when a person is stressed or upset, may be a sign of aging, and can also be caused by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, diseases like AIDS or diabetes, and mny different medications. In fact, studies have shown that up to 400 medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can contribute to dry mouth. Some of these types of medicines include certain anti-depressants, antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and pain-killers.
People experiencing dry mouth need to maintain good oral hygiene and nutritional habits. Adding fluoride to your diet and increasing the amount of water you drink are an important line of defense to battle dry mouth. Sugar-free candy or gum also will help stimulate saliva flow, and alcohol, caffeine, and smoking should be avoided. Citrus juices, overly salty foods, and dry foods like toast or crackers should also be eliminated from your diet if you experience dry mouth. Above all, the most important thing is to keep visiting your dentist regularly. He or she can properly diagnose your condition, offer suggestions and solutions to help the problem, and replace moisture in your mouth with artificial saliva and oral rinses.