A persistent dry mouth can lead to more serious dental as well as health problems. Saliva does more than just keep the mouth wet. It helps digest food, protect teeth from decay, prevents infections by controlling bacteria (reducing gum disease), and makes it possible for you to chew and swallow food. There are several reasons that the salivary glands might not function properly:
Side effects of many medications. These include but are not limited to antihistamines, decongestants, pain medications, diuretics, anti-hypertension, and depression anxiety medications.
- Diseases – such as diabetes, Hodgkins, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Radiation therapy – salivary glands can be damaged if your head or neck are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment. The loss of salivary production can be total, partial, permanent or temporary.
- Chemotherapy – drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker or “ropey” causing a dry mouth feeling. This type of saliva is less effective at reducing the bacteria in the mouth.
- Menopause – changing hormone levels affect the salivary glands, often leaving menopausal and post-menopausal women with a persistent feeling of dry mouth.
- Smoking – many pipe, cigar, and cigarette smokers experience dry mouth.
If you have dry mouth, you need to be extra careful to keep your teeth and gums healthy and to seek out professionally focused dental care for your medical condition.