Dry Mouth – Its Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
"Like having a mouthful of cotton."
That's how many people describe dry mouth, a condition common among people of all races, lifestyles, and age groups. Some of the more frequent symptoms include the following:
- A parched sensation in the upper throat or mouth, especially one that's unaffected by sipping water or other liquids.
- Thick, clingy saliva that may have an unpleasant taste.
- Pronounced difficulty in chewing, speaking or swallowing food.
- Strong, offensive breath.
If you notice any of these problems, then contact your health care professional right away. Dentists, in particular, have experience dealing with the causes of dry mouth as this condition can lead to:
- Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
- Fungal infections of the mouth
- Mouth sores.
Tobacco use – All types of tobacco products can cause the symptoms of dry mouth.
Medications – Many medicines may cause dry mouth as a side effect. The issue most commonly occurs with drugs intended to treat cold or flu symptoms, blood pressure medications, pain relievers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxers.
Neuropathy – Nerve damage in the neck or head frequently causes dry mouth.
Cancer treatments – Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands, leading to dry mouth. Some chemotherapy drugs have the same effect, though generally the problem goes away after treatment is completed.
As a rule, the aging process does not cause dry mouth symptoms. However, older people are more likely to take medication or have health issues that affect saliva production.
- Sipping either water or non-caloric drinks during the day can relieve the symptoms of dry mouth.
- Chewing gum or using hard candies can stimulate saliva production.
- Using a humidifier in the home or office can help in many cases.
- Moisturizing products for the lips can reduce cracking and similar problems.
- Breathing through the nose rather than the mouth prevents saliva from drying out.
- Eliminating tobacco products, cutting back on alcohol intake, and reducing consumption of caffeinated beverages can all help to eliminate causes of dry mouth.
KNOWING WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR OR DENTIST
If your dry mouth symptoms persist after trying these remedies, then you may want to schedule an appointment with your health care professional. He or she may recommend one or more of the following steps:
- Prescribing medications that stimulate the production of saliva.
- Applying sealants to back teeth to make them more decay-resistant.
- If a medication you're currently taking is the cause of your dry mouth, your health care provider may adjust your prescription to alleviate the symptoms.