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Dental Health and Dry Mouth

We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food. Saliva also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. When we don't produce enough saliva, our mouth gets dry and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for dry mouth.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

There are several causes of dry mouth, also called xerostomia. These include:

 

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?

Common symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Frequent thirst
  • Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • A dry, red, raw tongue
  • Problems speaking or difficulty tasting, chewing, and swallowing
  • Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat
  • Bad breath

 

Why Is Dry Mouth a Problem?

Besides causing the aggravating symptoms mentioned above, dry mouth also increases a person's risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush.

Dry mouth can also make it difficult to wear dentures.

How Is Dry Mouth Treated?

If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medication you are taking, talk to your doctor. He or she may adjust the dose you are taking or switch you to a different drug that doesn't cause dry mouth.

In addition, an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture may be prescribed. If that doesn't help a medication that stimulates saliva production, called Salagen, may be prescribed.

Other steps you can take that may help improve saliva flow include:

  • Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
  • Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
  • Protecting your teeth by brushing with a fluoridetoothpaste, using a fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist regularly
  • Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible
  • Using a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air
  • Using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Steve Drescher, DDS on June 20, 2012
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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