How can I tell if I have dry mouth?

Does your mouth feel dry all of the time?  Does it wake you up at night or make eating difficult? Without enough saliva life can be very uncomfortable. Your mouth feels dry, the tongue sticks to the cheeks, lips and teeth makingeating, speaking or swallowing difficult. It can also lead to dry and cracked lips, bad breath, increased cavities and even a change in your sense of taste.

These are all signs that you may have dry mouth, which is actually pretty common, particularly among older adults and especially with older women. It occurs when the glands that make saliva don't work properly. 

The number one cause is medication use. Hundreds of prescription medications are known to cause dry mouth. Millions of older adults take multiple medications that may cause dry mouth. It can also be a side effect of illnesses including diabetes, anemia, Sjogren’s syndrome and others.


What are the symptoms of dry mouth? 

Discomfort associated with dry mouth is the first symptom reported by people. Many people with dry mouth experience:

  • Problems with food ingestion, need to drink water or other fluids frequently during meals
  • Taste alterations with a predominance of bitter and salty taste
  • Bad breath
  • Burning sensation of the tongue and/or lips
  • Presence of “milky” saliva
  • Increased cavities 


Do I have dry mouth? 

Some questions to answer when trying to figure out if you have dry mouth:

  • Do you feel that the saliva in your mouth is too little or too much – or do you not notice it?
  • Does your mouth feel dry when eating?
  • When eating, do you need to drink liquids to aid in swallowing?
  • Do you have trouble swallowing?


Bottom line, the mouth needs saliva, and the lack of it can cause big problems including; cavities, gum disease and oral infections. It is very important that you inform your physician or dentist if you think you suffer from dry mouth. A lack of protective saliva can cause big problems for your teeth and gums. Depending on the cause of dry mouth, dentists can recommend appropriate treatment. Your dentist can provide you with ways to stay comfortable and protect your oral health. Some simple steps include always keep water handy, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco, caffeine, acidic drinks like fruit juices, and alcohol. Consult with your dentist if you think you suffer from dry mouth.