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Xerostomia Causes - Tips on Dealing with Dry Mouth Syndrome

Updated on July 12, 2011

Xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome is characterized by reduced salivary flow due to different causes. From what I have understood, xerostomia is not a disease in itself but can be a symptom of any particular disease and can lead to difficulty swallowing, difficulty speaking, dental issues, tooth decay, and taste disorders. Since ancient times, our mouth has proven to be a mirror of our health and it is said that if it is healthy, it is more likely that our entire body is healthy, so understanding xerostomia becomes really important as it involves the oral cavity which is also the main gateway of food from which we generate energy. Now before giving you some useful tips on dealing with this annoying dry mouth syndrome, you must understand what is the function of saliva and salivary glands in our body and how important it is to keep them functioning properly. For your information, there are three major types of salivary glands namely parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands, which produce and secrete saliva. When food enters the oral cavity, the saliva is the first thing that begins the digestion of food because it contains enzymes that help in chewing and breaking down of food. Also, saliva contains a sterile liquid that not only helps in maintaining good oral hygiene but also helps defend the harmful foreign microorganisms that enter our body, so if our mouth has little saliva, then we are more likely to have infections inside the mouth, have trouble chewing and swallowing food, as well as have trouble in proper digestion. This abnormally reduced salivation is medically called as hyposalivation and is also the main reason for bad breath.

Xerostomia - Dry Mouth Discomfort
Xerostomia - Dry Mouth Discomfort

Some Causes of Xerostomia:

  1. Drug related xerostomia.
  2. Salivary gland dysfunctions.
  3. Radiation therapy.
  4. Chemotherapy.
  5. Autoimmune disorders.

Drug Related Xerostomia

Taking of certain drugs is the main etiology of xerostomia, but it is also proven that drugs rarely cause irreversible damage to salivary glands because when you will skip or stop taking them, your signs and symptoms of xerostomia will disappear to some extent. According to some recent research, it has been found that there are more than 440 drugs, which can cause xerostomia, and some types of those drugs are analgesics, antihistamines, antihypertensives, antiemetics, anticonvulsants, antiparkinsonian drugs, appetite suppressants, antispasmodics, diuretics, expectorants, decongestants, and muscle relaxants. It has also been found that these drugs are able to decrease, increase, or alter the function of salivary glands and composition of salivary fluid, possibly because they mimic the action of autonomic nervous system or by direct action on the cellular processes required for salivation. These drugs can also indirectly affect the salivary flow by altering the balance of electrolytes and fluids or disrupt blood flow to the salivary glands.

The effect of dry mouth caused by a drug can enhance when it is combined with another, for example prescription of psychotropic drugs such as neuroleptics with antidepressants prescribed in the treatment of people with psychological disorders.

Radiation therapy causes dry mouth
Radiation therapy causes dry mouth

Salivary Gland Dysfunctions Leading to Dry Mouth

Salivary gland dysfunction is another major cause of xerostomia or dry mouth disorders and complaint of dry mouth is usually related with salivary gland dysfunction. There are many diseases that can lead to salivary gland dysfunction and then causes xerostomia.

Radiation Therapy Dry Mouth

Radiation therapy is a treatment for cancer and is given to cancer patients to reduce the abnormally multiplying cancer cells in a given location inside the body. When this therapy is given to the neck and head region, as in cases of oral, throat, or dental cancers, patients experience intense dry mouth or xerostomia because this treatment damages the salivary glands resulting in lack of saliva leading to severe dry mouth conditions and increased risk of infections.

Chemotherapy Dry Mouth

Chemo means chemicals and therapy means treatment so chemotherapy means treatment with use of chemicals to kill cancerous cells. High doses of chemotherapy in cancer patients leads to salivary gland failure and thereby causes xerostomia.

Autoimmune Disorders

In autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's syndrome our immune system has a tendency to attack salivary glands causing damage again leading to dry mouth syndrome.

So above were the causes of xerostomia and below are:

Some Tips On Dealing With Dry Mouth Syndrome

Tip #1: Take proper care of oral hygiene through daily cleaning to reduce the risk of infection and entry of harmful microorganisms that is facilitated by low saliva.

Tip #2: Chew food thoroughly so as to stimulate saliva production and facilitate digestion of food.

Tip #3: Avoid alcohol and snuff because they cause dry mouth.

Tip #4: Drink plenty of water on a daily basis to reduce dry mouth problems.

Tip #5: Chew sugarless chewing gum to stimulate secretion of saliva.

Tip #6: Do not go long without drinking or eating anything because that is the time when saliva is reduced and mouth feels dry which causes discomfort.

Tip #7: Some teas such as chamomile tea, mint tea, and Echinacea tea can help in dry mouth conditions, as they naturally stimulate saliva production. If you are suffering from this problem, you should have these herbs in your home.

Tip #8: One of the most recommended home remedies for dry mouth is apple, as it is a good generator of saliva and also provides general oral healthcare. Eating an apple a day helps in keeping dry mouth away.

Least but not last, xerostomia or dry mouth is a poorly understood disease that can cause great inconvenience for people; therefore, understanding its causes and following few simple tips can help reduce their potential and protect the mouth which is a true mirror of the health of the rest of our body.

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    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      I am glad that this information was unique and new and it helped you in your research.

    • profile image

      khlood al-hammad 

      7 years ago

      Thanks every body .. its itristing 2 get new information esically n my recearch about xerostomia

    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Yes, you are right a12p8a1. What a username. wow.

    • profile image

      a1j2p8a1 

      8 years ago

      Oral hydration by water is the most important way to prevent this disorder.

    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Drinking plenty of water helps prevent dry mouth in some but people who have autoimmune diseases or have undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment do not get help. They need saliva stimulating drugs. Apple is a good fruit to stimulate saliva naturally. Thanks a lot Wendy and ocbill for your visit and comments.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 

      8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      interesting that this condition is prevalent considering people are told each day to drink plenty of water.

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 

      8 years ago from Maryland

      Great information! I didn't know about the apples. I really need to start eating more.

    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      8 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Yes Tkumah, that's why the old saying is always true, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    • Tkumah profile image

      Tkumah 

      8 years ago

      Very good information. It is so true about the benefits of eating apples for oral and overall healthcare.

      Thank you for sharing.

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