Dry mouth is uncomfortable, annoying—and dangerous for your teeth and gums.

There are numerous causes of dry mouth, some temporary and some long term. Temporary causes may include dehydration or a side effect to a medication. Longer term causes may include nerve or tissue damage, symptoms of diseases, or lifestyle choices such as smoking.

In addition to discomfort, dry mouth can have an adverse effect on teeth. Saliva is one of the most effective ways to rinse away plaque and other residue from the teeth, and when saliva production goes down, these residues can collect on tooth surfaces and cause damage.

Lack of saliva can also cause bacteria to build up on gums, creating problems like gingivitis. And lack of moisture can also cause sores to form on the tongue and sensitive membranes of the mouth.

How do you deal with dry mouth? There are a number of short-term and lasting treatments. One simple way to address it is to chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy, both of which can stimulate saliva production. Drinking more water can also help if the root cause is dehydration.

If a medication is suspected to be at fault, then consult with your doctor, or if you think dry mouth might be a symptom of another condition, then a doctor’s checkup would be a wise move. There are over-the-counter products designed to reduce dry mouth, and proper brushing and flossing are especially important to help protect your teeth.

Have other questions about dry mouth? Use our Ask The Expert feature on our website to get answers, or schedule an appointment for a checkup.

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