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Xerostomia, or dry mouth, occurs when your body is unable to produce adequate quantities of saliva. The condition affects roughly 10% of all people and is more prevalent among women and seniors. Aside from making the inside of your mouth feel like a desert, xerostomia can also cause minor discomfort and lead to frequent thirst, cracked lips, dryness in the throat, and a burning sensation in the tongue. To prevent your mouth from getting too dry, it helps to understand the risk factors that cause the condition.
There are numerous factors that lead to xerostomia. Common causes include the following:
- Medication – Various prescription and over-the-counter medications include dryness in the mouth as a side effect. This includes antihistamines, decongestants, pain relievers, and those used for treating depression and nerve pain.
- Chemotherapy – Cancer therapy drugs can alter the body’s ability to produce saliva. This is usually temporary, though, as normal production returns once treatment ends. Some radiation treatments can also damage salivary glands.
- Tobacco use – Frequent chewing of tobacco can also lead to excessive dryness in the mouth.
- Nerve damage – An injury to the head or neck can lead to damage in the nerves, which can inhibit the salivary gland’s saliva production.
- Health Condition Symptoms – Xerostomia can also be a symptom of a more severe health condition, such as Alzheimer’s and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Snoring – Chronic snorers tend to sleep with their mouth open, which can lead to dryness the following morning.
How to Prevent It
The solution is to stimulate saliva production. Any of the following methods will help you achieve this end:
- Chew on gum – chewing on a strip of gum is a quick-fix solution. The chewing movement helps stimulate the salivary glands.
- Suck on hard candy – Like chewing, a sucking motion also encourages saliva flow. Sucking on a sugar-free hard candy will get your body to respond to the need for saliva.
- Stay hydrated – The body needs water to produce saliva, so stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Maintain good oral hygiene – Your mouth is teeming with bacteria that can inhibit your salivary glands. The bacteria can be removed with daily brushing, rinsing, and flossing. On top of home oral care, a routine cleaning by a dentist can also help dislodge additional bacteria hiding in the hard-to-reach areas.
Xerostomia Is Completely Preventable
By understanding the cause and prevention methods, you should have the knowledge and know-how to keep excessive dryness at bay. Even if you aren’t exactly sure of the cause, you can still offset xerostomia by using one or more of the outlined methods.