Most people have experienced a dry, uncomfortable sticky feeling in their mouths at one time or another. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, happens when the salivary glands in your mouth aren’t making enough saliva. Dry mouth is a fairly typical occurrence when a person is anxious, but there are also a number of other reasons that might contribute to dry mouth, including medications, aging, medical conditions, or dehydration. Smoking and chewing tobacco or drinking too much alcohol can also be causes of dry mouth.
Most people don’t think much about their saliva, but the benefits it provides to your overall dental health shouldn’t be underestimated. This natural function in your mouth plays a significant role in protecting your teeth. Saliva, which is made up of water, as well as antibacterial fighting compounds including calcium, phosphorous, and fluoride, helps by washing away food and debris from the teeth and gumline. But saliva’s role doesn’t end there. It neutralizes acids in the mouth, helps to prevent against tooth decay, kills germs, and protects teeth enamel. Without saliva, teeth and gums are more prone to inflammation, sensitivity, infection, and gum disease, and you might find your breath doesn’t smell so great either.
If you’ve experienced chronic dry mouth, you’ll already know that beyond the discomfort of a dry mouth, it can also cause chapped or cracked lips, sore throat, thirst, and more annoying or painful side effects. The good news is that dry mouth is very treatable.
One of the first things you can do to treat dry mouth is to make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. If you’re on a medication you suspect is the culprit, speak with your healthcare provider. Other treatments for dry mouth include maintaining your dental health by brushing and flossing regularly, chewing a sugarless gum or candy to moisten your mouth, using a fluoride rinse, and avoiding foods that are salty or beverages like alcohol, soda, or coffee. Your dentist can also provide you with an oral rinse that creates artificial saliva or prescribe medication that will activate salivary gland production.
Of course, don’t neglect dental cleanings and consult with your doctor and dentist if your dry mouth doesn’t go away as it could be indicative of an underlying illness.