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A pasty, sandpaper feeling in the mouth, bad breath and difficulty swallowing are all symptoms of a chronic dry mouth — symptoms that JoAnn Gurenlian, a dental hygienist and director of education and research with the American Dental Hygienists Association, experienced herself when undergoing cancer treatment several years ago.
“It was so bad at one point my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth,” Gurenlian said of this common issue, which, according to her, can be caused by a number of things including medications, autoimmune disorders and underlying conditions like diabetes.
Dr. Corey Brick, a New York City-based dental surgeon, told HuffPost that if it is left unadressed, a chronically dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can be the catalyst for a number of severe oral health issues, namely rampant tooth decay or aggressive gum disease.
“Our saliva is protective, containing antibodies that help to fight and neutralize the bacteria that cause either cavities or gum disease. With reduced salivary flow, our bodies can’t fight off those bacteria as well and they can accumulate rapidly in the form of plaque,” Brick said. Gurenlian added that recurrent mouth and fungal infections can also become a risk.
The vital function that a healthy supply of saliva plays also goes beyond plaque control. It’s necessary to consume and digest foods properly, too.
“With reduced salivary flow, people can have difficulty eating and digesting their foods, leading to heartburn, reflux and poor nourishment,” Brick cautioned.
Guerlian noted the toll that dry mouth can also have on mental health, saying that it can impact a person’s ability to enjoy their food or be social.
“If you are taking an antihistamine because you have a sinus problem or you have hay fever and season allergies, this might be something that’s just a very temporary situation,” she said. “But, if you’re noticing that your symptoms are building up and not going away, even after you’ve stopped taking medication, it might be time to go to your doctor or your dental professional and say, ‘What can I do about this?’”
Even years later, Gurenlian remembers the discomfort that her dry mouth played in her everyday life, but she insists that you don’t have to suffer in silence. Aside from creating a personalized treatment plan with your dental professional, she said that hope can also be found in over-the-counter products, some of which we have rounded up in the list below with the help of our dental experts.
1. Saliva-producing gum and mints
Brick explained that xylitol is a sugar alternative that can prevent cavities and increase saliva production. It can be found in some lozenges or gums, like these from Spry and Xylichew, both of which are made with natural ingredients that are beneficial to oral health and come in a variety of flavors like cinnamon and spearmint.
"Just keep it away from your pets," Guerlian warned, as xylitol is toxic to dogs.
You can buy Spry Xylitol Mints and Xylitol Chewing Gum from Amazon for around $10 each.
2. A moisturizing mouth gel
"Gel products lubricate the mouth, [and] can be very soothing for patients," Guerlian said. Using a blend of glycerin and saliva-stimulating agents like xylitol, this moisturizing gel can provide long-lasting relief while also freshening breath.
You can buy Biotene Oral Balance Dry Mouth Moisturizing Gel from Amazon for around $18.
3. A 12-pack of hydrating coconut water
Both Guerlian and Brick stressed the importance of regular water intake as a way to moisten the mouth and keep hydrated.
"I have found that coconut water is a great alternative [to water] since the natural sodium content helps to draw water and saliva back into the mouth," Brick said.
You can grab a 12-pack of this organic and sustainably sourced coconut water, packed full of natural electrolytes and nutrients.
You can buy a 12-pack of Vita Coco Coconut Water from Amazon for around $25.
4. A lubricating dry mouth spray
One of Brick's favorite oral sprays for stimulating saliva production is this one from Lubricity, a flavorless and odorless spray that instantly relieves dry mouth. It's formulated with five simple ingredients including xylitol and hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant that draws moisture into the skin.
You can buy Lubricity Dry Mouth Oral Spray from Amazon for around $20.
5. A pH-balanced oral rinse for dry mouth
Brick said that Bioténe's oral rinse formulated just for dry mouth is very popular. This alcohol- and sugar free rinse lubricates and soothes for up to four hours while also helping the mouth to maintain a balanced pH.
You can buy Biotene Oral Rinse Mouthwash from Amazon for around $10.
6. A lanolin-rich superbalm
This all purpose rescue balm can help alleviate any migrating lip soreness or dryness. The salve is made with lanolin, a non-pore-clogging emollient that's rich in vitamin D, which can rapidly help repair skin and lock in hydration.
You can buy Lanolips 101 Ointment from Amazon for around $17.
7. An ultrasonic cool mist humidifier
"When addressing dry mouth symptoms, sometimes it's important to first check what's going on in your environment. Is it overly drying?" Guerlian said. She suggested buying a humidifier which can help hydrate the air in your home.
This near impeccably rated option has an ultrasonic cool mist that keeps dry air moist for up to 25 hours. It also has a 360-degree nozzle that helps keep a consistent balance and regulates the humidity in your home to help relieve cold-like symptoms such as sinus issues.
You can buy Pure Enrichment® MistAire™ Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier from Amazon for around $40.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.