Dry Mouth: Causes & Treatments

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Saliva is crucial for digesting food, controlling bacteria, protecting teeth from decay, and chewing and swallowing. If you aren’t producing enough saliva, your mouth will probably feel sticky and dry. Chewing, swallowing, tasting, and speaking can become difficult. Other symptoms can include a burning feeling in your mouth, a dry throat, cracked lips, mouth sores, an infection in the mouth, and a dry, rough tongue.

What Saliva Really Does

Dry mouth happens when your mouth produces little to no saliva. What little saliva you have might be thick and stringy. But dry mouth is more than just feeling thirsty. Saliva helps you taste what you eat and drink, and it helps you digest your food. It flushes food particles away from your teeth and neutralizes acids to help prevent tooth decay. Dry mouth is also called xerostomia.

Dry Mouth Includes Dry Skin

Lack of saliva causes the skin in and around the mouth to become dry and tight. Your lips may become cracked, and sores might form at the corners of your mouth. Your tongue can feel rough and dry as well. And you might have trouble swallowing or difficulty speaking without the lubrication that saliva provides.

Embarrassing Side Effects

Dry mouth causes unpleasant side effects. Because saliva isn’t flushing your mouth of food particles and debris regularly, it’s common to develop persistent bad breath. If you wear lipstick, you might find that it sticks to your teeth because no saliva is there to rinse it off. Dry mouth can be the culprit when it comes to hoarseness or a tickle in the throat.

Medicines Can Cause Dry Mouth

More than 400 types of medications can cause dry mouth, including over-the-counter drugs for allergies and cold symptoms, and many prescription drugs for high blood pressure, overactive bladder, and mental health problems. It can also be a result of medical treatments such as radiation for certain cancers, which can damage salivary glands. Chemotherapy sometimes causes saliva to thicken and make the mouth feel dry.

Nerve Damage Can Affect Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be related to nerve damage from a head or neck injury. Certain nerves carry messages between the brain and the salivary glands. If these nerves are damaged, they might be unable to tell the salivary glands to make saliva. Without saliva, it’s also hard to taste food because saliva carries the flavors in food to nerve cells in the mouth and throat.

Other Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be caused by a medical condition called Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s is an autoimmune disorder in which…