Your mouth is dry most of the time because your salivary glands, located on either side of your mouth, do not produce enough saliva. Your mouth needs saliva to help rid it of plaque, tartar, sugar build-up and food particles. Without sufficient saliva, you have more tooth decay and may get periodontal disease and gingivitis.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition almost always caused by another condition or disease. These can include anaemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, lupus and an infection of the salivary glands. Side effects of certain medications and the effects of radiation therapy can also cause dry mouth. Ongoing depression, as well as medications taken for depression, can contribute to dry mouth. Ageing is another cause of dry mouth.
What Can Be Done for Dry Mouth?
Your doctor can prescribe what is called "artificial saliva," which helps keep your mouth less dry. He can also check your medications and see if you can be switched to one that does not cause dry mouth. But there are also a number of simple and natural ways to treat dry mouth that you can easily do for yourself.
Natural Ways to Ease Dry Mouth
With dry mouth, drink water as often as possible. Keep a water bottle handy and sip from it whenever your mouth feels dry. This also helps get rid of food accumulating in and between your teeth. Crunching ice chips is also a great way to ease dry mouth and clean your teeth.
Stay away from alcohol--it dries out your mouth. So does drinking coffee, tea and peppermint tea. Instead, drink herbal fruit teas, such as black currant, raspberry and cranberry. Fruit juice is also good to stimulate saliva, but be careful of the sugar content.
You can also chew sugar-free gum to help stimulate saliva. Sugar-free fruit chewing gum is best, as mint gum will dry your mouth out. You can also occasionally suck on sugar-free hard candies, but be careful--too many of these can have a laxative effect.
Diet for a Dry Mouth
Avoid spicy, salty, sugary and overly acidic foods. Spicy and salty foods are hard to eat if you have dry mouth. Sugary foods contribute to tooth decay and also to dryness. And acidic foods can attack your tooth enamel. Sodas, particularly colas, are also not recommended.
Eat foods that require vigorous chewing, such as carrots, apples and celery. Chew all food slowly and thoroughly as chewing helps stimulate saliva. Stay away from food that fragments easily and gets caught between your teeth, such as nuts and popcorn.
Keep Your Teeth Clean
Because with dry mouth your saliva does not clean your mouth properly, you get more decay and plaque, especially between teeth. Brush and floss as often as possible, certainly after every meal. Between regular brushing, wet a fingertip, dip it in salt and gently massage your gums for a minute or so. Rinse thoroughly with warm salt water. Also, have your dentist teach you how to scrape your tongue clean and do this regularly.
Instead of a minty mouthwash after brushing, try a mouth rinse of sage, thyme and rosemary. Add 1 tsp of each to a pot of water and let boil for a few minutes. Strain the mixture into a large water bottle, let cool and use as a rinse; it has antibacterial properties that help keep your mouth clean.