Dry mouth can be temporary. Many of us have experienced the ‘dry horrors’ the morning after drinking a little too much alcohol – your mouth is like a desert, your tongue feels like cardboard and swallowing is almost impossible. Having a cold, or breathing through your mouth, can also cause dryness. In these cases, you know that once you get over the cause you and your mouth will be back to normal. However, if you live with these symptoms most of the time, then chances are you have dry mouth (salivary hypofunction). A persistently dry mouth is thought to affect at least one person in 10, and one in five older people. Sometimes a dry mouth can be a sign of more serious conditions like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease.
Saliva is produced by several types of salivary gland, which release saliva at numerous different positions in the mouth. Each type of gland makes a slightly different form of saliva. The result is a constantly changing composition of saliva in the mouth, to perform a range of essential functions.
It is important to see your doctor to explore any possible underlying causes of dry mouth. Some causes may include:
When saliva is in short supply a number of problems can emerge, such as:
Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine to help stimulate saliva production. There are also a number of self-help measures you can try.
Gingivitis and cavities are a greater problem for people with dry mouth, so good daily oral care is particularly important. It is also very important to see your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.
Dry mouth NIH Seniors Health (USA), 2013Dry mouth – range of resources MedlinePlus (USA), 2014