Medically referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth occurs due to insufficient production and flow of saliva. Rather than a disorder, dry mouth is merely a symptom of an underlying disease or illness.
Every other person is likely to experience dry mouth. Often nervousness, anxiety, tension, or anger leads to dry mouth. However, persistent dry mouth conditions not only make you uncomfortable, but also cause other health problems. It is better to determine the root cause of xerostomia as it can be a sign of severe physiological conditions.
Why Is Saliva Important?
Constant production and flow of saliva in your mouth is extremely important for different reasons. Your mouth accumulates chemicals and bacteria from hot, spicy, and acidic foods, drinks, and the atmosphere. It is saliva that continuously lubricates your mouth to protect it from infectious bacteria. It provides a protective coating to your teeth and gum line to protect them from fungi and infections. Reduced or absolutely no flow of saliva can result in dry mouth which not only affects the mouth tissue, but also gives rise to tooth decay and foul breath.
Problems Caused By Dry Mouth
Xerostomia affects soft tissues present in your mouth. They get swollen and become more vulnerable to infections. In the absence of shielding and cleansing effects of appropriate production and flow of saliva, periodontal diseases, tooth decay, and mouth infections become very common. You are also likely to have bad breath because of consistent dryness in your mouth. Your dentures or mouth braces may also become more uncomfortable in the absence of an adhesive layer of saliva.
How To Know If You Have Dry Mouth
People having dry mouth do not mostly observe their suffering until their salivary glands have lost their functionality almost by 50 percent. Following are some obvious signs that can make you notice your dry mouth conditions:
- Recurrent thirst
- A painful and dry sensation in your mouth
- Sore throat
- Gruff voice
- Mouth sores
- A red, dry, and rough tongue
- A stinging feeling in your throat
- Foul breath
- Difficulty in eating, particularly chewing and swallowing
- Dry lips, especially cracked mouth corners
- Mouth infections
What Can Cause You Dry Mouth
A majority of people get xerostomia when their salivary glands stop working properly or lose their basic functionality. In this aspect, these glands do not produce enough saliva to maintain the level of moisture in your mouth.
Your salivary glands may not function properly because of certain diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, mumps, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Different therapies involved in cancer treatment also affect the working of salivary glands. An injury or surgery causing neck or head damage reduces the production of saliva.
The effects of xerostomia may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the underlying reason. Being a mild victim of dry mouth, you may not even notice its symptoms. It is quite possible that you perceive its symptoms as normal. A moderate sufferer of dry mouth may also ignore the basic signs despite constant lip-licking and sticky mouth. However, severe dry mouth sufferers have a stinging mouth, rough tongue, split lips, and even mouth sores.
Kevin Kerfoot writes about health, nutrition, oral hygiene and skin care for Trusted Health Products’ natural health blog and newsletter.