Dry Mouth or Xerostomia

Dry mouth condition is when there is not enough saliva in the mouth. It is a common problem and can be a symptom of some underlying problem, rather than a disease condition itself. Medically, this condition is called xerostomia. Dry mouth can affect both the health of teeth and enjoyment of food.

Saliva prevents tooth decay by limiting growth of bacteria and washing off the food particles and bacteria. It also makes swallowing easier and enhances the ability to taste. As a result of reduced or no saliva, these would not happen and dry mouth eventually leads to tooth decay.

Causes of Dry Mouth

There are many causes that contribute to dry mouth condition. They are as follows:

Medications – Several medications produce dry mouth as one of the side effects. Some of the medications include the drugs used for treating anxiety and depression, urinary incontinence, decongestants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, hypertension medications, Parkinson’s disease medications and anti-diarrheals.

Aging – Though age is not a risk factor for dry mouth, aged people are prone to take many medications that may lead to dry mouth. Also, aged people suffer from multiple health conditions which can cause dry mouth as a symptom.

Cancer therapy – Chemotherapy medications can cause affect on the amount of saliva and nature of saliva. Radiation treatments performed on the head and neck can affect salivary glands, causing a decrease in production of saliva.

Nerve damage – Injury or surgery which causes nerve damage of the head and neck can also cause dry mouth.

Health conditions – Dry mouth can result from certain health conditions and their treatments which include diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, depression and anxiety disorders. Alzheimer’s disease and stroke also cause a feeling of dryness in the mouth. Breathing with mouth open and snoring also cause dry mouth.

Tobacco – Smoking and tobacco use can increase dry mouth symptoms.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

In dry mouth condition, the following symptoms are observed:

  • Severe dryness in the mouth
  • Saliva which will be stringy and thick
  • Bad breath
  • Slit skin or sores at the mouth corners
  • Cracked lips
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in swallowing and speaking
  • Fungal infection inside the mouth
  • Altered sense in taste
  • Increased tooth decay, gum infection

Treatment for Dry Mouth

If dry mouth is due to the medications, your physician may switch you to other medications or adjust the dosage. Also mouth rinses are prescribed that help in restoring the moisture in the mouth. If these measures do not work, you may be prescribed saliva producing medications such as Salagen and Evoxac.

Other measures that may help in improving saliva are:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free candy
  • Using fluoride containing toothpaste and mouthwashes
  • Breathing through nose alone, not using mouth
  • Using over the counter saliva substitute
  • Installing a room vaporizer so that it would help in adding moisture to the air