My mouth gets dry frequently, particularly if I am stressed. Is there something wrong with my oral healthcare routine? What should I do?

Dry mouth, known as xerostomia in medical parlance, is a commonly experienced condition. In most cases it is temporary and is often experienced during stress or anxiety, as it is in your case.

But if the dryness is present all or most of the time, it could be a sign of an underlying condition such as diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome (a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s white blood cells destroy the salivary and lacrimal glands), anaemia or Alzheimer’s. Many medications can also cause dryness as a side effect. If you suspect any medical problems, consult a physician.

Dry mouth can make you more prone to cavities, gum disease and oral infections, so it is important that you visit a dentist regularly at least every six months. The dentist may also recommend fluoride mouth rinses or some saliva substitutes if required.

Stress causes dry mouth because when we are anxious we tend to breathe more through our mouth than the nose. There is also an increased amount of acid produced in our stomach. This can cause acid reflux, which can result in dryness.

To relieve dryness sip water often during the day. You can use sugarless chewing gum, which stimulates more saliva flow. Avoid drinks with caffeine such as coffee or sodas.

Do not use tobacco or mouthwashes containing alcohol as they also cause dryness.