Call it cotton mouth, dry mouth, a visit from Sandy Tongue or, as scientists call it, xerostomia: if you have it, you know it (via the NIH). Dry mouth can happen to anyone, but when it persists, the lack of saliva can lead to a number of uncomfortable problems. According to the American Dental Association, saliva is 99% water, plus 1% electrolytes and other chemical compounds, and we need that mix to help us chew and swallow our food, not to mention taste it. Compounds in saliva actually begin the digestion process, and they protect our mouth and teeth from being damaged by chemicals and microbes. With insufficient saliva, we’re more likely to develop dental cavities, sensitive teeth, gum disease, and other infections.
Along with sensations of dryness, xerostomia symptoms include sore throat, dry and cracked lips, mouth sores, bad breath, and trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking. If your dry mouth is a result of mundane dehydration, drinking more water should help, reports Self. But if it doesn’t go away, a visit to the doctor is in order to find the cause.