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Dry mouth

Last Updated: 30.11.2023

Author: George Ghidrai, MD  

The mouth needs saliva to be able to work properly. Saliva keeps our mouth moist, and it helps digest food. It also acts as a cleanser and has a buffering capability that counterbalances the acidic environment created by acid fermentation.

Saliva also prevents infection, helps teeth in remineralization and is a very essential contributor to a person's ability to taste

dry mouth

Dry mouth or xerostomia is a condition which affects the flow of saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry and uncomfortable.

At times, xerostomia can make it difficult to speak and may lead to malnutrition. Extreme dry mouth and salivary gland dysfunction can produce significant and permanent mouth and throat disorders and can impair a person's quality of life.

What causes dry mouth?

There are several causes of dry mouth :

Signs and symptoms

People with dry mouth may have trouble speaking, eating, tasting food, and swallowing. A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth and throat, frequent thirst and bad breath are also common symptoms.

Because of the lack of saliva, the usual signs of dry mouth can include a dry, red, raw tongue, sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth and cracked lips.

Dry mouth also increases a person's risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush. A white tongue can be an indicative of a fungal infection like yeast (candidiasis).

Dry mouth can make dentures difficult to wear.

How is dry mouth treated?

It is important to determine the underlying cause of dry mouth. First, you'll need to talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking since some of them may be responsible for your dry mouth. The doctor may adjust your dose or prescribe a different drug that doesn't cause dry mouth.

Meanwhile, you can take other steps that may help improve saliva flow. Some of them will aim to stimulate salivary flow from the glands while others will act as saliva substitutes.

It is important to remember that dry mouth increases the risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections, so prevention of caries or candida infections should be an important goal.

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