Dry mouth, also called xerostomia –

is a persistent feeling that there is not enough saliva in your mouth, making talking and eating difficult or embarrassing. Reduced saliva flow, which causes dry mouth, can damage mouth tissue, cause dental decay and contribute to bad breath.

Why is Saliva Important?

Saliva lubricates and protects your mouth from infection by bacteria. It also coats your teeth and protects them from acids that can cause decay. Saliva helps with swallowing and chewing food. Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages. Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Symptoms

Dry mouth sufferers often don’t notice that they are suffering from dry mouth until their saliva flow has already dropped by 50%. Symptoms of dry mouth include: a feeling of soreness in the mouth; stickiness to the touch and cracking at the corners of the mouth; a red and parched mouth or pebbled look to the tongue; difficulty eating dry or spicy foods; food just not tasting like it used to; difficulty speaking; a tendency to wake up more often during the night; bad breath.

 

Causes

  • Medications- many everyday medicines cause dry mouth, including over-the-counter cold remedies and antihistamines, anti-depressants, some beta-blockers, anti-hypertensives and diuretics
  • Age- as people get older, they tend to take more medicines; half of all Americans over the age of 60 take three or more prescription medicines on a regular basis
  • Sj√∂gren’s Syndrome- a chronic condition, in which the body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks the body’s own tear and salivary glands, is a major cause of dry mouth
  • Diabetes -All types of diabetes can cause increased urination or an underlying metabolic or hormonal problem, which results in dry mouth
  • Poor Oral hygiene, ineffective daily plaque removal by limited dexterity or limited effort

Relief

  • Sip water often. Avoid drinks that cause dry mouth, such as caffeine-containing drinks (coffee, tea, some sodas) and alcohol.
  • Chew sugar-free gums or candies to stimulate saliva flow, especially ones that contain Xylitol.
  • Avoid tobacco, as this has a drying effect on the mouth, leading to dry mouth symptoms
  • OraMoist Dry Mouth Patch- works for hours providing effective saliva increase, found in most drug stores
  • Biotene Products- found in local groceries and drug stores; biotene.com
  • Lubricating mouth rinses, spray, and gel soothes tissues and maintains moisture
  • Fluoride use is important when suffering from dry mouth. This may be recommended as a toothpaste or rinse.