Saliva is not just helpful in breaking down the food you’re eating; it’s also essential in keeping your mouth clean by providing protection against bad breath and tooth decay. As you age, your mouth might not be able to make enough saliva, making it dry and uncomfortable especially when swallowing.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, happens when you begin to have a dry or sticky feeling in your mouth or you frequently feel thirsty. You might also see sores on your mouth, or feel a burning or tingling sensation on your tongue, causing difficulty in speaking, chewing, and swallowing. Bad breath is another manifestation of a dry mouth, which makes it easier for bacteria to infiltrate your mouth and increases your risk of having gingivitis and tooth decay.
Common causes of dry mouth, aside from aging, include prescription and nonprescription drugs, particularly those used for depression, pain, allergies, and colds. It could also be a side effect of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and anemia, among many others. If you’re not taking any of these medications or experiencing the aforementioned conditions, your dry mouth is most likely to be caused by your smoking habits (if any), or even the way you breathe (more particularly, if you tend to breathe through your mouth). If you begin to feel dryness in your mouth, it’s advised to seek a dentist before it begins to have an effect on your teeth.