What's in this article?
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth is a condition that results from a decreased volume of saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth is also called xerostomia. Xerostomia can make it difficult to speak, eat, and digest food and can lead to malnutrition. Extreme dry mouth and salivary gland dysfunction can produce significant anxiety, permanent mouth and throat disorders, and can impair a person’s quality of life.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Causes of Dry Mouth my include:
- Side effect of certain medications . Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and nonprescription drugs, including drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds(antihistamines and decongestants), obesity, acne, epilepsy,hypertension (diuretics), diarrhea, nausea, psychotic disorders, urinary incontinence, asthma (certain bronchodilators), and Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of muscle relaxants and sedatives.
- Side effect of certain diseases and infections. Dry mouth can be a side effect of medical conditions, including Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and mumps.
- Side effect of certain medical treatments. Damage to the salivary glands, the glands that make saliva, can reduce the amount of saliva produced. For example, the damage could stem from radiation to the head and neck, and chemotherapy treatments, for cancer.
- Nerve damage . Dry mouth can be a result of nerve damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery.
- Dehydration . Conditions that lead to dehydration, such as fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and burns can cause dry mouth.
- Surgical removal of the salivary glands.
- Lifestyle. Smoking or chewing tobacco can affect how much saliva you make and aggravate dry mouth. Breathing with your mouth open a lot can also contribute to the problem.
Signs & Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Everyone’s mouth feels dry from time to time. It’s when this feeling doesn’t go away that you may have a problem producing saliva.Symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth or throat
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking
- A burning feeling in the mouth
- A dry, tough tongue
- Cracked lips
- Gum irritation
- More frequent tooth decay
- Mouth sores
- Bad breath
How common is dry mouth?
Dry mouth affects about 10% of all people and tends to be more prevalent in women than men. Disorders of saliva production affect elderly people and those who are taking prescription and nonprescription medications most frequently.
What are the benefits of saliva?
Saliva is an essential part of a healthy mouth and is often taken for granted. The lubricating properties of saliva provide comfort and help protect the oral tissues against ulcers, sores, and other frictional movements that accompany normal eating and speaking. Saliva neutralizes acids and helps defend against tooth decay, and bacterial, viral, or fungal threats. Saliva helps digest food and helps teeth in remineralization. Saliva is also a very essential contributor to a person’s ability to taste, as it acts as a solvent for the taste stimuli. When saliva volume is insufficient, all of these functions are impaired.
Dry Mouth Treatment
If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medication you’re taking, talk to your doctor. The doctor may adjust the dose you’re taking or switch you to a different drug that doesn’t cause dry mouth.
The doctor may also prescribe an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture. If that doesn’t help, he or she may prescribe a medication that boosts saliva production called Salagen.
You can also try these other steps, which may help improve saliva flow:
- Suck on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
- Drink plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse, and visit your dentist regularly.
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible.
- Use a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air.
- Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.