Cotton mouth – that is, an overly dry mouth – is surprisingly common. It’s also devastating to oral health.
For saliva does more than just keep the soft tissues in your mouth moist and help you swallow. In fact, it’s amazing stuff, containing a number of elements with protective functions:
- Minerals that buffer acids, keeping gums and teeth healthy and strong
- Enzymes important to carbohydrate digestion
- Proteins and fats, protectively coating teeth and gums
- Immunoglobulins and proteins that fight pathogenic microbes (“bad bugs”)
Far more than half of my clients have inadequate saliva, yet most are unaware that their mouths are excessively dry. Humans are amazingly adaptive, after all. We learn to “live with it.”
While chemo and oral radiation for cancer can wreak havoc with saliva quantity and quality, there are plenty of other causes of dry mouth:
- Prescription medications (and more than a few recreational drugs!)
- Mouth breathing
- Hormonal fluctuations (menopause)
- Kidney dysfunction
- Uncontrolled diabetes (At least 1/3 of those with diabetes are undiagnosed.)
- Oral and systemic yeast infections
- Poor diet
- Heavy coffee use (Coffee is a diuretic.)
- Inadequate water intake
- Sjögren’s syndrome
Stop and think: Is there a pool of saliva under your tongue right now? There should be!
Mouth Matters tells you how to check yourself for adequate saliva flow and, if low, determine the cause. Good quality saliva will be clear and thin, not cloudy, thick and ropey. Normal, unstimulated flow should be between 0.3 and 0.4 ml/minute; stimulated, it should be 1 – 2 ml/minute. Less than 0.7 ml/minute while stimulated is abnormally low and puts you at risk for discomfort and decay. Conditions in the mouth are just too acidic, often making the soft tissues feel like they’re burning.
So what to do about it? There are many solutions, which I discuss in detail in Mouth Matters. Here’s an especially powerful one: