Dry Mouth

What Is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth is the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Everyone has dry mouth once in a while -- if they are nervous, upset, under stress, or taking certain medications. But if you have dry mouth all or most of the time, see a dentist or physician. Many older adults have dry mouth, but it is not a normal part of aging.

(Watch the video to learn more about dry mouth. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Why Saliva is Important

Saliva does more than keep your mouth wet. It protects teeth from decay, helps heal sores in your mouth, and prevents infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the mouth.

Saliva helps digest food and helps us chew and swallow. Saliva is involved in taste perception as well. Each of these functions of saliva is hampered when a person has dry mouth.

How Dry Mouth Feels

Dry mouth can be uncomfortable. Some people notice a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth. Others notice a burning feeling or difficulty while eating. The throat may feel dry, too, making swallowing difficult and choking common. Also, people with dry mouth may get mouth sores, cracked lips, and a dry, rough tongue.