A dry mouth may seem like an insignificant and harmless problem, but it can lead to other health issues. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth occurs when there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. We all experience a dry palette every now and then, but when a drink of water doesn’t fix it, there can be a deeper issue.

Saliva is a substance located in the mouth that is secreted by the salivary glands. Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not working properly. Besides keeping your mouth wet, saliva protects your teeth from decay, helps heal sores in your mouth, and prevents infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth. Furthermore, it helps you chew, swallow, and digest your food. In other words, saliva is necessary for your body to function. When you have dry mouth, the purpose of saliva is obstructed.

If you can identify with the following symptoms, you may be a victim of dry mouth:

  • Uncomfortable, dehydrated or sticky feeling in the mouth
  • A burning sensation while eating
  • Dry throat
  • Difficulties swallowing
  • Mouth sores
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry tongue

Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not working, and it is important to understand why this happens. It can be a result of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or chemotherapy, but it can also be the outcome of an autoimmune disease known as Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is a virus in which a person’s white blood cells attack their moisture-producing gland, which can cause complications throughout the entire body.

Your physician or doctor can help you treat dry mouth, but here are a few ways to avoid it:

  • Drink a lot of water
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy
  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Don’t forget to floss
  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods
  • Use a humidifier at night to produce moisture in the air while you sleep
  • Try to limit your consumption of drinks with caffeine or alcohol

It all comes down to keeping your mouth healthy. Dry mouth is an uncomfortable situation that is not a normal part of aging. If you do have dry mouth, visit your dentist frequently to find out how you can treat it properly.

Sources:
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/
http://www.sjogrens.org/

Melanie Marzillo
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living