Technically called xerostomia in the medical field, dry mouth is a troublesome condition that inhibits food enjoyment and risks tooth health. Diseases, treatments, nerve damage and over-the-counter medicines all contribute to dry mouth.
According to the website Medicinenet.com, symptoms of dry mouth involve increased thirst, dryness, mouth sores, cracked skin around the lips and a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth or tongue. Patients may experience problems talking, eating and swallowing with dry mouth. Fungus, tooth decay, thick saliva and impaired taste also typify this condition.
Countless medical diseases like Alzheimer's and treatments like chemotherapy contribute to salivary gland problems. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), prescription and non-prescription medications are the most common cause of salivary disorders.
The Mayo Clinic reports that moisture-less, indoor air triggers dryness, especially during colder months. People who breathe through the mouth during sleep experience even greater difficulty.
According to Medicinenet.com, "We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food." The rinsing properties of saliva restrict bacterial growth and safeguard teeth from decay. Without the saliva, dead cells collect on teeth and produce an odor.
JADA cautions, "Persistent xerostomia and salivary dysfunction can produce significant and permanent oral and pharyngeal disorders and can impair a person's quality of life." Dry mouth contributes to the onset of gingivitis, tooth decay and mouth infections.
Treatment recommendations from the Mayo Clinic include drinking water, limiting caffeine, chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production, and avoiding sugary or acidic foods. Abstaining from mouthwashes that contain alcohol is also recommended as well as using a humidifier and breathing through the nose instead of the mouth.