Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Dry mouth

Q. I hope you can help me with a very annoying problem. My mouth and throat are constantly parched, even though I carry a water bottle and sip from it constantly. I know it's a small problem compared to all the things you write about, but it's very uncomfortable, and I'd appreciate any advice you can offer.

A. Call it dry mouth, and it sounds like little more than a nuisance — but call it by its medical name, xerostomia, and it sounds fearsome. In most cases, dry mouth causes more discomfort than damage, but severe cases can lead to important complications. Dry mouth can rob you of the sense of taste, and it can make chewing slow and swallowing difficult. The combination may lead to malnutrition, and since saliva is important for dental health, tooth decay and periodontal disease can add to the problem.

First, be sure you're well-hydrated. It sounds like you drink plenty of water, but even without true dehydration, the membranes in your mouth and throat will be dried out if you breathe dry air through your mouth, especially at night. If that's your problem, nasal decongestants may help restore nose breathing, and a bedroom humidifier can add moisture to the air you breathe.

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