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.

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