Everyone has experienced a dry mouth during stressful situations such as an oral presentation or an intense job interview. However, if your mouth continually feels like the Sahara desert, you may have xerostomia, a condition marked by a decrease in saliva production. Saliva is an essential component of good oral health because it lubricates the mouth, neutralizes acids that attack the tooth enamel and helps kill the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. It also contributes to your ability to taste and helps you digest food. Here are the facts about this condition that can wreak havoc on your oral health, digestive health and quality of life.

What are the Causes of Dry Mouth?

The following are the most common reasons for decreased saliva flow:

  • Lifestyle: Engaging in bad habits can contribute to a dry mouth. Smoking or using other tobacco products, drinking alcohol, consuming too much caffeine and breathing through your mouth rather than your nose are all risk factors for xerostomia.
  • Medical Conditions: A host of health problems can lead to a dry mouth, including diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, anemia and HIV. Health problems that cause dehydration, such as illnesses involving fever and diarrhea, can also leave the mouth feeling parched.
  • Drink lots of water
  • Avoid foods and beverages that cause dehydration, such as salt, alcohol and caffeine
  • Eat sugarless hard candy
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste for optimal protection against dental erosion and decay
  • Use an over-the-counter mouth rinse or gel that is formulated to moisturize the mouth

When to Seek Professional Care for Xerostomia?

If at-home care does not alleviate your dry mouth, you should see your dentist to determine if you need further treatment, which may include a prescription medication to stimulate saliva production. If your dry mouth is caused by a health condition or one of the medications you are taking, consult with your physician to find out if your treatment plan can be altered so that you can obtain some relief from your xerostomia.