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What Is Chronic Dry Mouth?

Chronic dry mouth can lead to painful throat symptoms.
Chronic dry mouth and bad breath, known medically as "halitosis," are two of the most common conditions for which specially-designed antibacterial toothpastes are recommended.
Smokers often suffer from chronic dry mouth.
A woman with dry mouth and chapped lips.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2014
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Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition in which the mouth is abnormally dry and lacking saliva. For most people, dry mouth occurs only occasionally, but in some people, its symptoms last. When a person has persistent symptoms of dry mouth, he is said to have chronic dry mouth. This condition is marked by such symptoms as cracked lips, thick saliva, bad breath, taste changes, and sore throat. Typically, this condition is treated by changing the dosage of the medication that caused it or treating the underlying condition responsible for the problem; sometimes doctors also prescribe medications that help to stimulate the body to produce more saliva.

Saliva may not seem to be very important, but its usefulness may become evident when a person is dealing with chronic dry mouth. For starters, a person who has persistent dry mouth may be more prone to cavities. This is due to the fact that saliva helps to slow the growth and multiplication of bacteria in a person’s mouth. When a person has too little saliva, tooth decay can be one of the unpleasant results. Saliva also influences the way food tastes and also aids in swallowing and food digestion.

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There are many symptoms a person may have when he is dealing with chronic dry mouth. Besides a noticeable decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth, a person with chronic dry mouth may notice the saliva he does have is thicker than normal and may even have a stringy consistency. A person with this condition may also have chapped lips and bad breath. In many cases, a person with this condition experiences frequent sore throat symptoms and difficulty swallowing or even talking. Fungal infections of the mouth and tooth decay may also develop more frequently when a person has chronic dry mouth.

Chronic dry mouth may develop for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes it develops as a side effect of medication, such as those used to treat depression, allergies, and high blood pressure; chemotherapy drugs may cause it as well. People who smoke cigarette or have damaged nerves in the head or neck may sometimes suffer from the condition. In some cases, an underlying health condition, such as diabetes may be at fault. Elderly people may be more likely to suffer from dry mouth, but this may be due to medications they take to treat age-related health conditions.

Treatment for chronic dry mouth may depend on its causes. In some cases, changing a medication dosage or switching medications altogether may help. Sometimes treating underlying health conditions may provide relief. Doctors may also prescribe saliva-producing medications in some cases.

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