This article is not about normal dry mouth, which can happen to all of us from time to time, but today we are talking about Xerostomia which is when a person’s mouth is dry most of the time.
Xerostomia (the medical term for Dry Mouth) is a condition that is the result of decreased* salvia production and affects more women than men.
Dry Mouth syndrome has also been referred to as “cottonmouth”, “dough mouth”, “pasties” and “drooth”.
25% adults (worldwide) are affected with Dry Mouth for one reason or another.
Similar to the fact that a headache is a symptom of an underlying condition and is not considered to be a disease, Xerostomia is not a disease, but a symptom due to an injury, medications, or an illness such as diabetes.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth symptoms include:
- Cracked lips
- Ulcers in and around the mouth
- Sore and split skin near the corners of the mouth
- Bad breath
- Persistent cough
- Sore throat
- Sticky mouth
- Stringy saliva
- Mouth ulcers
- Difficultly speaking, eating and swallowing
- Unable to taste properly – a disorder known as “Dysgeusia“
- Glossodynia is a symptom of dry mouth and it is basically a painful tongue
- Lipstick has a tendency to stick to teeth for individuals that suffer with Xerostomia
Why is Saliva So Important?
Saliva is made when you chew on food or sugarless gum and also when you suck on hard candies or cough drops.
On average, a person makes between 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day.
Saliva is important to a person’s overall health, it is mostly water but also has components that keeps teeth strong, helps food digest properly and cleans teeth clear of food pieces.
In addition, saliva keeps your mouth comfortable and moist. It helps you swallow, chew and taste delicious food.
Salvia battles bad breath, fights against germs that might be in your mouth and keeps dentures securely in place.
Why is Dry Mouth a Problem?
Dry mouth is uncomfortable because of swelling around the gum and mouth. In addition, germs thrive in this dry setting and bad breath (medically known as “halitosis“) becomes very evident.
Xerostomia can make speaking, eating (and overall enjoying food) a challenge.
From the lack of saliva, more cavities, gum disease, plaque buildup and tooth decay is possible.
Thrush, an infection of the mouth is more possible when the mouth is dry most of the time.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry Mouth is a side effect to many prescription medications such as anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, antidepressants, diet pills and some blood pressure medications.
Dry mouth is not a symptom of growing older, but this condition is associated with the older generation because of many of the types of medications that are taken can cause excessive dry mouth.
Radiation treatment, especially to the head and neck area may also be a cause of dry mouth as chemotherapy may alter the natural saliva process.
Diabetes, imbalanced hormones and other causes may include dehydration, severe stress and anxiety.
A severe injury or surgery to the neck and head may result in nerve damage that in turn can result in chronic dry mouth syndrome.
Chewing or smoking tobacco may increase* chronic dry mouth symptoms.
Available Treatment For Dry Mouth
A low sugar diet is recommended to avoid dry mouth.
Besides sugar, it is also advised to avoid foods that are high in acid and extremely spicy
Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products should be reduced* if total elimination is not possible.
Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks that are too hot or too cold.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom every night to add moisture to the air.
Daily fluoride treatments may also be an effective treatment.
Artificial saliva is available for purchase without a prescription and it will keep your mouth moist and comfortable, but it does not have important minerals, proteins and other substances that are found in real saliva and is needed to help with digestion.
It is important to identify and treat* dry mouth as soon as possible with a health care professional to avoid devastating effects of dry mouth that will have on your oral and overall health.
It is important that a person that has Xerostomia pay special attention to their oral hygiene by brushing and flossing on a regular basis.
Daily visual mouth exams should be conducted to see if any mouth sores, discoloration or other abnormalities are detected. A dentist or health care professional should be contacted.
Dentures should always be kept clean and overnight soaking is recommended because sleeping with dentures could increase* dry mouth symptoms.
Munching on celery and carrots sticks may help salivary glands function more efficiently.
Learn to breathe through your nose as it will not cause dry mouth as much as breathing through your mouth will.