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Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah),
is the condition of not having enough saliva, or spit, to keep the mouth
wet. Dry mouth can happen to anyone occasionally—for example, when nervous
or stressed. However, when dry mouth persists, it can make chewing, eating,
swallowing and even talking difficult. Dry mouth also increases the risk
for tooth decay because saliva helps keep harmful germs that cause cavities
and other oral infections in check.
Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands that make saliva don't work
properly. Many over-the-counter and prescription medicines, as well as
diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Sjogren's syndrome, can
affect the salivary glands. Other causes of dry mouth include certain
cancer treatments and damage to the glands' nerve system. It's important to
see your dentist or physician to find out why your mouth is dry.
Depending on the cause of your dry mouth, your health care provider can
recommend appropriate treatment. There are also self-care steps you can take
to help ease dry mouth, such as drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless
gum, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. Good oral care at home and regular
dental check-ups will help keep your mouth healthy.