Dry mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh), refers to any condition in which your mouth is unusually dry. Most often, dry mouth is the result of a decrease in saliva produced by the glands in your mouth (salivary glands), and it's frequently a side effect of medication. Less often, dry mouth may be caused by a condition that directly affects the salivary glands.

Dry mouth is a common problem. It can range from being merely a nuisance to something that has a major impact on your general health and the health of your teeth, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food.

Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.

Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause.

Symptoms Causes Complications

If you're not producing enough saliva, you may notice these signs and symptoms all or most of the time:

  • Dryness in your mouth or throat
  • Saliva that seems thick and stringy
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing
  • A changed sense of taste
  • Problems wearing dentures
  • More frequent tooth decay
  • Gum irritation and gum disease

In women, dry mouth may result in lipstick sticking to the teeth.

When to see a doctor

If you've noticed persistent dry mouth signs and symptoms, make an appointment with your family doctor or your dentist.

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