Saliva is a thick fluid produced by our salivary glands and is constantly in our mouths. It’s important because it moisturizes and cleans the oral cavity. It also has an essential role in food digestion and the prevention of oral infection.
Lack of saliva for a short period can result from dehydration and stress. However, a constant lack of saliva is considered abnormal and can lead to a dry mouth. A dry mouth can lead to further complications such as mouth sores, cavities, and tongue pain.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
These symptoms may indicate that you have a dry mouth:
- Loss of taste
- Burning sensation in your mouth
- Dry tongue
- Cracked lips
- Mouth ulcers
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or talking
Dry Mouth Common Causes
- Medication: Some medications can cause dry mouth. Talk with your doctor if you suspect a particular medication is drying your mouth.
- Smoking reduces saliva production, which can eventually lead to dry mouth.
- Alcohol Drinking: Alcohol can increase the “bad” bacteria in our mouths and lower the amount of “good” bacteria, ultimately changing our mouths’ microbiomes. This can lead to a “decreased flow rate” of saliva.
- Radiation therapy: Dry mouth is one of the common side effects of radiation therapy.
- Specific conditions: Dry mouth can combine conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Infection: Inflammation of salivary glands can restrict saliva production.
- Other causes: Aging, nerve problems, severe dehydration, blood loss, mouth breathing, and hormone changes.
Avoiding Dry Mouth
There are many ways to help prevent dry mouth. For instance, reduce your consumption of beverages that increase mouth dryness, such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol. You should also reduce your spicy and/or sugary food intake. If you’re not drinking enough water, make a conscious effort to do so. Chewing sugar-free gum between meals may also provide some relief.
If you suspect that you have a dry mouth condition, it’s very important to visit our office so we can take a look. In some cases, dry mouth can be a symptom of another underlying condition that requires treatment.
Patrick J. Soria, DDS