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Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry mouth is the condition of not having enough saliva. In addition to keeping the mouth wet, saliva

  • helps digest food
  • protects teeth from decay
  • prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth
  • makes it possible for you to chew and swallow

Without enough saliva you can develop tooth decay or other infections in the mouth. You also might not get the nutrients you need if you cannot chew and swallow certain foods.

Symptoms

  • a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
  • a burning feeling in the mouth
  • a dry feeling in the throat
  • cracked lips
  • a dry, rough tongue
  • mouth sores
  • an infection in the mouth

Causes

People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are several reasons why these glands (called salivary glands) might not work right.

  • Side effects of some medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. Medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
  • Disease. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sj√∂gren's Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease can all cause dry mouth.
  • Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
  • Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
  • Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.

Treatment

Dry mouth treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. If you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician. He or she can try to determine what is causing your dry mouth.

  • If your dry mouth is caused by medicine, your physician might change your medicine or adjust the dosage.
  • If your salivary glands are not working right but can still produce some saliva, your physician or dentist might give you a medicine that helps the glands work better.
  • Your physician or dentist might suggest that you use artificial saliva to keep your mouth wet.
What can I do?
  • Sip water or sugarless drinks often.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.
  • Sip water or a sugarless drink during meals. This will make chewing and swallowing easier. It may also improve the taste of food.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices.
  • Don't use tobacco or alcohol. They dry out the mouth.
  • Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth.
  • Use a humidifier at night.

 

Reference:

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, USA.