Dry mouth is the feeling of an inadequate flow of saliva in the mouth. Your mouth needs saliva to work because it’s made to help break down food and help you swallow. Saliva also cleans the mouth of harmful bacteria and helps wash away food particles from your teeth. When your mouth loses the ability to produce saliva, tooth decay and gum disease can occur and cause serious infections that significantly affect your oral health. Visiting the dentist is your first line of defense against dry mouth, and if you believe you may have dry mouth, learn here about why saliva is vital for your oral health and what causes dry mouth.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth can happen when the salivary glands do not make enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Your mouth needs saliva to work because it’s made to help break down food and help you swallow. Saliva also cleans the mouth of harmful bacteria and helps wash away food particles from your teeth. Saliva has an essential role to play, and the lack of saliva can cause tooth decay to occur, as saliva is a highly valuable gauge for healthy teeth and gums. For a person with this condition, dry mouth can show signs such as:
- Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- Cracked lips
- Burning sensations in the mouth
- Dry, rough tongue
- Mouth sores from the lack of saliva
- Trouble chewing, speaking, and tasting
- Tooth and gum infections
- Dry feeling down the throat
When these glands don’t work, numerous causes can be accounted for in combination or separately, including:
- Medications: Many over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs often have dry mouth as a side effect. While many of these drugs treat conditions such as depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure, dry mouth can occur while receiving treatment for another condition. If you have dry mouth, speak with your primary care physician, and if they’re unable to provide alternatives, seek your dentists for treatment.
- Health Conditions: Diabetes, yeast infections in the mouth, strokes, HIV/AIDS, and Alzheimer’s disease can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Conditions such as diabetes and strokes can be better prevented through proper health routines such as diet and exercise. Simultaneously, autoimmune diseases like HIV/AIDS would need to be managed appropriately by your primary care physician.
- Tobacco/Alcohol Use: Both alcohol and tobacco can cause and increase dry mouth symptoms due to the drying effect tobacco smoke and alcohol have on the mouth. Both tobacco and alcohol use can also increase the risk of developing oral cancers, especially combined with poor oral hygiene.
- Aging: Many older generations experience dry mouth due to certain medications, changes in their body’s ability to process food, and other long-term health issues.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome: This autoimmune disease mistakenly attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands, destroying tear-secreting glands and salivary glands, as well as other organs throughout the body.
If you have signs of dry mouth that have persisted over a week and over-the-counter medications do not work, then contact your primary dentist for an appointment to receive treatment.