Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a condition in which your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. There are many reasons why you may develop dry mouth. For example, many medications have dry mouth as a potential side effect. Additionally, it is natural for dry mouth to occur as you age. Conversely, certain lifestyle behaviors, such as smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol, can increase the likelihood of dry mouth. Regardless of the reason why you have dry mouth, it is crucial to seek treatment.
WHAT DOES DRY MOUTH FEEL LIKE?
When your mouth is dry, it can feel like you are constantly dehydrated. This means that your mouth may feel dry or sticky. Additionally, your saliva may be thick or practically nonexistent. As a result, your throat can feel dry or sore.
A dry mouth can make swallowing, chewing, or speaking difficult. This is because saliva is necessary for each of these activities. Other symptoms of dry mouth include bad breath.
WHY IS SALIVA NECESSARY?
Although we may not realize it, saliva is important for many functions. As we chew, saliva helps moisten our mouth and food, making it easier to eat. Without saliva, chewing can become complex and potentially dangerous. If you don’t have enough moisture in your mouth, you may not be able to swallow your food without choking. Any food might feel like trying to eat a mouthful of crackers without water.
In addition, some of the components of saliva helps to break down food on a chemical level. In fact, these chemicals are part of the first stage of digestion. While saliva helps break down food, it also helps start digestion.
For your mouth, saliva is essential for your oral health. Saliva helps keep your mouth moist, which is vital for a healthy environment. Much like the rest of your body, your mouth houses a variety of bacteria–good and bad. Bacteria thrive in a dry environment, so bacteria multiply when your mouth is dry. Unfortunately, increased bacteria can cause tooth decay and gum disease, among other dental issues. Luckily, saliva helps to neutralize harmful bacteria. This is because some of the chemical components of saliva minimize the effects of bacteria.
HOW TO INCREASE SALIVA PRODUCTION
One of the first steps in treating dry mouth is to talk to your dentist. It is essential to understand what is causing your dry mouth. If your medication is the reason your mouth is dry, you may see if there is an alternative medicine. For example, many antihistamines and anxiety medications cause dry mouth.
If you cannot use a different medication or that is not your issue, you can ask your dentist for a mouthwash recommendation. There are some types of mouthwash that increase the amount of saliva you produce. Additionally, it provides a moisture barrier in your mouth.
You can also try to sip on water throughout the day. Rather than drinking a lot of water in one sitting, sipping water will help consistently keep you hydrated and your mouth moist.
Finally, chewing sugar-free gum can help you produce more saliva.