Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, is dryness in the mouth, which may be associated with a change in the composition of saliva or reduced salivary flow, or have no identifiable cause. This symptom is very common and is often seen as a side effectof many types of medication. It is more common in
- Older people (mostly because this group tend to take several medications)
- Mouth breathing (people who breathe through their mouths)
- Radiotherapy involving the salivary glands or surgical removal of salivary glands.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco can alter saliva production and aggravate dry mouth.
- Nerve damage in the head and neck area after injury or surgery.
- Chemotherapy and several diseases can cause hyposalivation( reduced saliva flow ) or a change in saliva consistency and hence a complaint of xerostomia.
- Sometimes there is no identifiable cause, and there may be a psychogenic reason for the complaint.
Dry mouth has the following effects on the mouth and teeth
- Dental caries
- Acid erosion
- Oral candidiasis or thrush
- Infection of the salivary gland
- Altered taste sensation and altered sense of smell
- Halitosis or bad breath
- A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth
- Saliva that appears thick or ropey.
- Mouth that appears dry.
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing, especially when eating dry foods
- The tongue may stick to the palate,causing a clicking noise during speech, or the lips may stick together.
- Gloves or a dental mirror may stick to the tissues.
- Fissured tongue and reddish appearance of the tongue.
- Saliva cannot be “milked” (expressed) from the salivary duct.
- Difficulty wearing dentures, e.g., when swallowing or speaking. There may be generalized soreness and ulceration of the areas covered by the denture.
- Mouth soreness .
- Lipstick or food may stick to the teeth.
- A need to sip drinks frequently while talking or eating.
- Dry, sore, and cracked lips and angles of mouth.
The best way to treat dry mouth depends on what’s causing it. You can do some things to relieve dry mouth temporarily. But for the best long-term dry mouth remedy, you need to address its cause.
You can also try these steps, which may help improve saliva flow:
- Suck on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum, specifically ones with xylitol. Try to avoid acidic ones like lemon that can soften teeth.
- Limit your caffeine intake because caffeine can make your mouth drier.
- Don’t use mouthwashes that contain alcohol because they can be drying.
- Stop all tobacco use if you smoke or chew tobacco.
- 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.
- Add moisture to the air at night with a room humidifier.
- Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.
Saliva is important to maintain the health of your teeth and mouth. If you frequently have a dry mouth, taking these steps to protect your oral health may also help your condition:
- Avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks because they increase your risk of tooth decay.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste — ask your dentist if you might benefit from prescription fluoride toothpaste.
- Use a fluoride rinse or brush-on fluoride gel before bedtime. Occasionally a custom-fit fluoride applicator (made by your dentist) can make this more effective.
- Visit your dentist at least two times a year to detect and treat tooth decay or other dental problems.
If these steps don’t improve your dry mouth, talk to your doctor or dentist. The cause could be a medication or another condition. If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medication you’re taking, talk to your doctor. Medications are one of the most common causes of dry mouth. Long-term relief from your dry mouth may mean stopping or changing your medication or its dosage, or addressing underlying health issues.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 Sailogogue.