Saliva is an important factor in keeping the mouth healthy and working properly. It’s presence helps to:
- protect, lubricate, and sanitize the mucosa layer of the oral cavity
- improve the function of chewing, swallowing and talking
- protect your teeth against cavities & tooth decay
- protect the mouth, teeth, and throat from infection by bacteria, yeasts, and viruses
- promote our sense of taste
When the production of saliva is too low, the condition of dry mouth (also known as Xerostomia) can negatively impact many aspects of your overall health.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Many different things can lead to the condition of dry mouth. Some of these causes may include:
- Disease or Infection. Dry mouth can be brought about by certain medical conditions such as: HIV/AIDS, hypertension, Parkinson’s, Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, lymphoma, oral cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and mumps.
- Medication Side Effects. Many drugs used to treat pain, allergies, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, psychosis, Parkinson’s, asthma, obesity, and diarrhea can cause dry mouth as a side effect.
- Medical Treatment Side Effects. Certain chemotherapy medications and radiation treatment to the head & neck (used to treat cancer) can lead to dry mouth by damaging the body’s means of salivary production.
- Aging. Many older individuals experience dry mouth as they age, but this is mostly due to changes in the body’s ability to process medication and malnutrition.
- Alcohol & Tobacco. Using alcohol and tobacco can damage the health of your mouth and worsen the symptoms of dry mouth among other issues.
- Dehydration. Conditions that cause a lack of hydration such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea, burn injuries, blood loss, and excessive sweating can cause dry mouth.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
The condition of dry mouth can cause many noticeable symptoms such as:
- Dryness or excessive stickiness in the mouth
- Saliva that is thick, stringy, or more viscous than normal
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Sore throat or hoarseness
- Dry tongue that may contain grooves
- Lessened/different sense of taste
- Speaking & chewing difficulties
Although the symptoms of dry mouth may in themselves seem like minor annoyances, the long-term effects of this condition can be much more serious to your overall health. Dry mouth increases your risk of suffering from gingivitis (gum disease), makes your teeth more vulnerable to cavities, tooth decay & infections, and can make it extremely difficult to wear dentures properly.
Dry Mouth Treatments
How dry mouth is treated depends on the root cause of the condition. If dry mouth is a side effect of a medication, then your dentist may recommend that you stop taking that medication, if possible. If the cause of your dry mouth is not from something that can be directly cut out, such as a medication or lifestyle habit, then your dentist may recommend a prescription for an oral moisturizer or medication to stimulate the production of saliva. These treatments may include: artificial saliva, moisturizers to lubricate the mouth, or mouthwash for those with dry mouth (contains xylitol).