Dry mouth—also called xerostomia—results from an inadequate flow of saliva. It is not a disease, but a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics and many others.
Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay and maintains the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. Saliva washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
If you’re not producing enough saliva, you may notice these signs and symptoms all or most of the time:
▪️ Dryness or a feeling of stickiness in your mouth.
▪️ Saliva that seems thick and stringyBad breath.
▪️ Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing.
▪️ Dry or sore throat and hoarseness.
▪️ Dry or grooved tongue.
▪️ A changed sense of taste.
▪️ Problems wearing dentures.
In addition, dry mouth may result in lipstick sticking to the teeth.
Dry mouth is caused when the salivary glands in the mouth don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet.
These glands may not work properly as the result of:
▪️ Medications. Hundreds of medications, including many over-the-counter drugs, produce dry mouth as a side effect. Among the more likely types to cause problems are some of the drugs used to treat depression, high blood pressure and anxiety, as well as some antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants and pain medications.
▪️ Aging. Many older people experience dry mouth as they age. Contributing factors include the use of certain medications, changes in the body’s ability to process medication, inadequate nutrition, and having long-term health problems.
▪️ Cancer therapy. Chemotherapy drugs can change the nature of saliva and the amount produced. This may be temporary, with normal salivary flow returning after treatment is completed. Radiation treatments to your head and neck can damage salivary glands, causing a marked decrease in saliva production. This may be temporary or permanent, depending on the radiation dose and area treated.
▪️ Nerve damage. An injury or surgery that causes nerve damage to your head and neck area can result in dry mouth.
▪️ Other health conditions. Dry mouth can be due to certain health conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, yeast infection (thrush) in your mouth or Alzheimer’s disease, or due to autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS. Snoring and breathing with your mouth open also can contribute to dry mouth.
▪️ Tobacco and alcohol use. Drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms.
▪️ Recreational drug use. Methamphetamine use can cause severe dry mouth and damage to teeth, a condition also known as “meth mouth.” Marijuana also can cause dry mouth.
If you don’t have enough saliva and develop dry mouth, this can lead to:
▪️ Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.
▪️ Mouth sores.
▪️ Yeast infection in your mouth (thrush).
▪️ Sores or split skin at the corners of your mouth, or cracked lips.
▪️ Poor nutrition from having problems with chewing and swallowing.
There are many ways to keep the mouth lubricated and prevent the symptoms of dry mouth.
1. sipping non-carbonated, sugar-free fluids.
2. chewing gum that contains xylitol.
3. using a carboxymethyl cellulose saliva substitute as a mouthwash may help.
4. avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol. A range of alcohol-free mouthwash.
5. not wear dentures during sleep.eating foods such as carrots or celery.
6. breathing through the nose, as this does not dry the mouth to the same extent as breathing through the mouth does.
Individuals should avoid:
▪️ chewing or smoking tobacco.
▪️ sugary foods or drinks.
▪️ acidic foods or drinks.
▪️ dry foods.
▪️ spicy foods.
▪️ excessively hot or cold drinks.
▪️ Alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum or avoided altogether, and caffeine should be only be consumed in moderation.
“Dry mouth”, www.mouthhealthy.org,
“Dry mouth”, www.mayoclinic.org,
“Everything you need to know about dry mouth”, www.medicalnewstoday.com