Dry Mouth: Xerostomia
Dry mouth or xerostomia is a medical condition in which you may feel unusual dryness in your mouth. It is a common condition and may cause great upset. Also, it makes you unable to enjoy your food and affects your teeth health.
Dry mouth is caused by decreased secretion of saliva in your mouth. Saliva acts as a cleanser of your mouth cavity. It removes food particles from between your teeth and limits bacterial growth inside your mouth. Saliva also works as a solvent for your food making it easier to be tasted and swallowed.
Salivary Amylase is one of the components of Saliva. This enzyme makes the first step in food digestion.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth:Click thumbnail to view full-size
Symptoms of Dry Mouth:
The symptoms and signs of dry mouth are a result of decreased production of saliva inside your mouth cavity. These symptoms and signs include:
- Unusual mouth dryness.
- Cracks in your lips.
- Inflammation and soreness of the corners of your mouth.
- Bad odor of breath.
- Difficulty in swallowing and sometimes speaking.
- Your saliva becomes thick.
- Your throat may become sore.
- Changes in your tasting.
- Mouth infections, especially fungal infections.
- Poor health of your teeth; you may notice an increase in tooth plaques, decay and gum diseases.
- Women may notice that the lipstick adheres to their teeth.
Causes of Dry Mouth:
Causes of Mouth Dryness:Click thumbnail to view full-size
Many causes may lead to dryness of your mouth. These causes include:
- Medications: Dry mouth is a potential side effect of hundreds of medications used in the treatment of various medical conditions. Some of these medications are even OTC (Over-the-counter) medications, and the others are prescriptive medications. Examples of these drugs include high blood pressure medications, decongestants, anti-diarrheal drugs, drugs for urinary incontinence and the drugs uses in the treatment of depression and anxiety, and the Parkinson’s disease medications.
- Aging: Aging isn't an absolute cause of dry mouth; however, it is usually associated with a group of diseases and health conditions that may lead to mouth dryness. Older people are more likely to take the medications that cause mouth dryness. And, the incidence of the diseases and health conditions that cause dry mouth is more in older people.
- Cancer Therapy: Cancer treatments depend mainly on cytotoxic drugs, i.e. the drugs that lead to tissue destruction. Chemotherapy may lead to a decrease in salivary production and may alter the characters of the saliva. Radiotherapy also may damage the salivary glands and decrease salivary production, especially when the radiation is done for head and neck.
- Nerve damage: If the nerves that supply the salivary glands are damaged either due to a surgery or an accident, the production of saliva from these glands will decrease leading to dryness of mouth.
- Other health conditions: Various health conditions may be associated with dry mouth either as a result of the medications used in their treatments or they contribute directly to the problem. The medications used in cases of depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, Hypertension, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and even HIV/AIDS may cause dry mouth. Other health problems such as snoring and mouth breathing may contribute to the condition.
- Smoking and Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing of tobacco may increase the severity of the symptoms of mouth dryness.
Your doctor or dentist will discuss with your symptoms with you and review your medical history and may ask you if you suffer from any health disease or condition, and if you take any medications. Your doctor will also examine your mouth cavity as well.
If your doctor suspects that you have mouth dryness. Other investigations may be requested to determine the cause of your condition such as blood tests and imaging of your salivary glands.
Treatment of dry mouth depends on the cause. If your doctor suspects that the cause of your condition is a drug, he/she may adjust the dose that you receive or even prescribe another drug that doesn’t affect your salivary production.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications that induce salivary production such as Pilcarpine (Salagen) or Cevimeline (Evoxac).
If you are liable to have severe teeth cavities, your dentist may recommend teeth coverings filled with fluoride to use during sleeping.
Dry Mouth: Home and Alternative Treaments
Dry mouth or Xerostomia is a common condition and it is associated with a lot of health problems. However, you can deal with it at home.
To treat mouth dryness and improve your symptoms and signs at home, you should:
How To Treat Dry Mouth At Home?Click thumbnail to view full-size
- Chew sugar-free gums: Chewing gums stimulates salivary production to moisture your mouth cavity. You can also suck hard candies instead.
- Reduce your intake of Caffeine rich beverages: Caffeine rich beverages can make your mouth drier. Try to limit your intake of them.
- Keep away from acidic or sugary foods: Sugary foods and candies as well as acidic foods may enhance the growth of bacteria inside your mouth cavity increasing the risk of the development of tooth decay.
- Brush your teeth using Fluoride toothpaste: Prescriptive Fluoride toothpastes limit the growth of bacteria inside your mouth cavity. Ask your dentist if he/she may prescribe one for you.
- Rinse your mouth regularly with Fluoride rinse: Before bedtime, it is recommended to rinse your mouth with Fluoride rinse or brush your teeth with Fluoride gel. Fluoride limits the bacterial growth on your teeth.
- Avoid using Alcohol containing mouthwashes: Alcohol can cause mouth dryness. Avoid using these mouthwashes.
- Don’t use tobacco: Smoking and chewing of tobacco usually contribute to dry mouth. Stop using all forms of tobacco.
- Drink sips of water frequently: It is recommended to sip water or such ice cubes to moisturize your mouth cavity throughout the day. You can also drink water during eating to facilitate chewing and swallowing.
- Use over the counter saliva constitutes: Salivary constitutes such as those containing carboxy-methyl-cellulose or Hydroxyl-ethyl-cellulose (Oral Balance, Biotene) may help you to overcome your mouth dryness.
- Keep breathing from your nose: If you breathe through your mouth, the air you inspire dries your mouth. Breathe from your nose instead.
- Avoid using OTC medications that cause mouth dryness: OTC decongestants and anti-histamines may worsen your mouth dryness. Try not to use them.
- Use humidifier during night: Air humidifier moisturizes the air in the room. If you use one during sleeping, it can improve your symptoms.
Useful External Links For Dry Mouth:
Acupuncture is believed to be useful for people suffering from dry mouth due to various causes especially radiotherapy used in cases of cancer.
Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles in specific areas of the body to stimulate the body to produce specific response.
Some studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of dry mouth; however, the way how acupuncture works in dry mouth is still under research.