Your mouth is feeling as parched as a desert. It could just be that you're not drinking enough fluids, but if the problem isn't going away, you might have xerostomia -- or what's commonly known as dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a lack of saliva in your mouth, and it can be caused by a lot of different health conditions and treatments, including:
- Medicines such as antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, high blood pressure medicines, chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer, and muscle relaxants
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Getting older
- Nerve damage from an injury or surgery to the head or neck
- Diseases such as diabetes, Sjögren's syndrome, Parkinson's disease and HIV/AIDS
Dry mouth isn't just annoying; it's an actual health problem. You need saliva in your mouth to help you digest food, and to keep your teeth clean by washing away food particles and bacteria. Make no mistake: Having dry mouth can affect your ability to taste, chew and swallow food. A lack of saliva can leave bacteria on your teeth, leading to tooth decay and bad breath. You can develop sores in and around your mouth, as well as cracked lips. Your throat can start to feel hoarse or sore. A lack of saliva can even make it harder for you to digest food or talk.
To treat dry mouth, your doctor may ask you to stop taking any medicines that are causing it. The doctor may also recommend medicines that stimulate saliva production. Another option is to rinse with something that replaces the missing moisture in your mouth -- like Biotène Oral Rinse. This product was designed to lubricate and relieve the symptoms of dry mouth. Biotène also comes in a toothpaste, mouth spray, gum and gel.
The Biotène Oral Rinse contains the same types of enzymes and protein that are found naturally in your saliva. It has added ingredients that moisturize and refresh the mouth. Studies have shown that Biotène is effective at relieving dry mouth in many people with the condition, although it's not a long-term cure [source: Matear]. If your dry mouth symptoms don't go away, call your doctor.
Biotène is generally safe, but it's not meant to be swallowed. Just as with other oral care products, keep Biotène out of the reach of children.
- American Dental Association. "Dry Mouth." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.ada.org/3014.aspx.
- Bethany Burtyk, GlaxoSmithKline. Personal Interview, Sept. 1, 2011.
- Biotene. "Oral Rinse." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.biotene.com/Products/Mouthwash.aspx.
- Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. "Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.31937/t.25022/pr.3/c.308554.html.
- Matear DW, Barbaro J. "Effectiveness of saliva substitute products in the treatment of dry mouth in the elderly: a pilot study." J R Soc Promot Health, 2005; 125(1):35-41. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15712851.
- Mayo Clinic. "Dry Mouth." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dry-mouth/HA00034/METHOD=print.
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. "Dry Mouth." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/drymouth/drymouth.htm.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Dry Mouth? Don't Delay Treatment." (Accessed Aug. 31. 2011.) http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm254273.htm.
- Warde P, Kross B, O'Sullivan B, Aslanidis J, Tew-George E, Waldron J, et al. "A phase II study of Biotene in the treatment of postradiation xerostomia in patients with head and neck cancer." Support Care Cancer, 2000; 8(3):203-208. http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10789961.