What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth is a legitimate medical condition and not just the symptom of a night of too much alcohol or eating too much garlic. Dry mouth is a real condition that happens when the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep the mouth lubricated, or assist in the many functions that saliva carries out in the mouth and body. This can be an auto-immune response, or a response to several factors such as overuse of analgesic medication, or cancer treatment.

It is also known as xerostomia.

What is saliva good for?

Saliva is an important part of the lubrication process, as well as the digestive function. Saliva is also a natural mouth wash, breaking down the enzymes of the food we eat and cleaning the teeth as we chew and swallow. The lack of saliva in the mouth can increase the chance of bacteria-causing cavities. Saliva has proteins that protect and coat the teeth.

According to Mayo Clinic, saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to chew and swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.

Saliva also keeps the mouth moist, which is its most comfortable state. A dry mouth can lead to cracks and tears forming, as the lack of lubrication limits elasticity.

Cancer Treatment

Radiation and Chemotherapy medication have been known to cause dry mouth in patients.

The change in the mouth’s saliva production is usually temporary, although radiation treatments to a patient’s head and neck can permanently damage salivary glands.

Age

Saliva production decreases naturally as we age, and contributing factors include the use of certain medications and changes in the body’s ability to process medication as well as old age related ailments like diabetes, stroke, yeast infection (thrush) in your mouth or Alzheimer’s disease. Bad habits like drinking alcohol and smoking nicotine also affect the amount of spittle in the mouth, as well as changes in the PH level in the mouth.

Also, inadequate nutrition and having long-term health problems can affect the salivary glands and slow production, explains Mayo Clinic.

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