When you are healthy, saliva is a useful, slightly alkaline bodily fluid that helps maintain your oral health. The pH balance in your mouth becomes more acidic after you eat. Saliva not only helps restore the pH balance, but it also rinses harmful materials such as bacteria from your mouth and prevents the bacteria from causing cavities. If you are not making enough saliva, you may experience dry mouth, or xerostomia. This is a common problem. It can be caused by age; an immune system that isn’t working correctly; diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; some medications; some medical treatments, such as cancer therapy; garlic and other foods; tobacco; eating disorders; or diabetes.
Symptoms may not be obvious. In general, though, you will find that it can cause bad breath and can make your tongue sensitive to the point of pain. You may experience chronic thirst and have a hard time speaking. It’s important to deal with dry mouth. Not only are you more likely to develop cavities, but you can also develop other serious problems, such as burning tongue syndrome, which feels much like the name suggests and develops when your tongue is dry too long.
The first step in treating dry mouth is determining its cause. If a medical condition is not responsible, then you can minimize it by drinking more water and chewing sugarless gum. If you smoke, stop. Get regular checkups and keep your mouth clean after eating. Your dentist can give you additional advice based on your specific condition and circumstances.