The average healthy adult produces about 3 pints of saliva a day. It is something that most of us don’t think about unless we don’t produce enough. That’s because saliva makes it easier for us to talk, helps prevent tooth decay by washing food and plaque away from our teeth, limits bacterial growth that can dissolve tooth enamel or lead to mouth infections, enhances our ability to taste our food, and makes it easier to swallow. Minerals found in saliva help repair early tooth decay and neutralizes damaging acids in our mouth; and enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.
Reduced saliva causes increased tooth decay, plaque, and gum disease. Bad breath, burning or tingling sensation of the tongue, split skin or sores at the corners of the mouth can also be a result of dry mouth.
While there are many causes of dry mouth, medications are frequently the culprit. Several hundred medications, including over-the-counter drugs, can cause dry mouth. Many medications used to treat depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, and Parkinson’s, as well as anti-diarrheals, muscle relaxants, and antihistamines often cause dry mouth.
Talk with your dentist or physician if you find eating dry foods uncomfortable or notice oral changes that may be related to dry mouth. There are treatments that help, and lack of saliva is too important to ignore.