Dry mouth symptoms occur when a person's mouth does not produce an adequate amount of saliva. In a healthy mouth, saliva works to digest food and cleanse the mouth. When saliva is not produced at normal rates due to dehydration, or malfunction of the salivary glands, the mouth can become uncomfortably dry and more susceptible to infection.
The most common dry mouth symptoms are a dry, sticky feeling in the mouth and constant thirst. The throat may also feel dry or sore, and the tongue may become painful, red, and raw. The lips, or corners of the mouth, may crack or form sores. Sores in the mouth are also common.
A person suffering from dry mouth symptoms may have difficulty talking and eating, possibly developing a hoarse voice. The nasal passages may also become dry as a result of dry mouth. Finally, halitosis, or bad breath, is a common symptom of dry mouth, as bacteria and fungi grow more easily in the absence of saliva. People with dry mouth are at a greater risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth infections.
Dry mouth symptoms can result as a side effect of a number of medications and medical conditions. Prescription and over-the-counter medications including antihistamines, decongestants, sedatives, analgesics, muscle relaxants, diuretics, and antidepressants can cause dry mouth. Some medical conditions that can present with dry mouth include Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Alzheimer's, anemia, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hypertension, mumps, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and stroke. Dry mouth can also be caused by trauma to the salivary glands, nerve damage to the head or neck, or any conditions that cause dehydration. Finally, dry mouth symptoms can also be the result of lifestyle choices, such as smoking, chewing tobacco, breathing with the mouth open, or even result from simple nervous tension.
If dry mouth occurs because of medication, dehydration, or nervous tension it is probably temporary, and symptoms will subside when the trigger is removed. Making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking can also reverse dry mouth symptoms. However, sometimes saliva production is permanently impaired.
Dry mouth symptoms can be treated with an oral rinse designed to replace moisture. It also helps to practice good oral hygiene, drink plenty of water, and to practice breathing through the nose. Chewing sugar-free gum, or sucking on sugar-free candy can help stimulate saliva production, and using a humidifier in the bedroom helps keep the air moist during sleep. Over-the-counter saliva substitutes are also available for people suffering from dry mouth symptoms.