Dry mouth, also called Xerostomia is a condition in which the production of saliva is insufficient and the lining of the tongue, cheeks, floor of mouth, palate and throat become dry. A sticky, dry feeling appears in the mouth with frequent thirst. There may be mouth sores or sores and split skin in the corners of the mouth or cracked lips. The throat may feel dry and a burning or tingling sensation may be experienced in the mouth and especially on the tongue. The tongue may appear dry, red or raw and the patient may experience bad breath. Finally xerostomia can cause problems speaking or difficulty tasting, chewing or swallowing with hoarseness, dry nasal passages and a sore throat.
What causes dry mouth?
Medications. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and nonprescription drugs, including drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds (antihistamines and decongestants), obesity, acne, epilepsy, hypertension (diuretics), diarrhea, nausea, psychotic disorders, urinary incontinence, asthma (certain bronchodilators), and Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of muscle relaxants and sedatives.
Systemic disease – Dry mouth can be a side effect of medical conditions, including:
Sjögren’s syndrome – an automimmune disorder in which the body creates antibodies thar attack its own glands that secrete saliva and tears resulting in dry eyes and dry mouth.
HIV/AIDS – Another automimmune disorder in which among other organs, the salivary glands are attacked by anti-self antibiodies causing dry mouth.
Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s disease and stroke victims may not feel the wetness in the mouth which can cause a virtual sensation of dryness.
Diabetes – An effect on blood flow through small blood vessels supplying the mucosal lining can cause diminished saliva and mucous production.
Other causes of dry mouth may include:
- Anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hypertension, Parkinson’s Disease, Stroke, and Mumps.
- Side effect of certain medical treatments. Damage to the salivary glands, the glands that produce saliva, for example, from radiation to the head and neck and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, can reduce the amount of saliva produced.
- Nerve damage . Dry mouth can be a result of nerve damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery.
- Dehydration . Conditions that lead to dehydration, such as fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and burns can cause dry mouth.
- Surgical removal of the salivary glands.
- Lifestyle. Smoking or chewing tobacco can affect saliva production and aggravate dry mouth. Continuously breathing with your mouth open can also contribute to the problem.
Why Is Dry Mouth a Problem?
Besides causing the aggravating symptoms mentioned above, dry mouth also increases a person’s risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush.
Dry mouth can also make it difficult to wear dentures.
Saliva does more than keep the mouth wet:
- It helps digest food
- It protects teeth from decay
- It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth
- It 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.
How Is Dry Mouth Treated?
If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medication you are taking, talk to your doctor. He or she may adjust the dose you are taking or switch you to a different drug that doesn’t cause dry mouth.
In addition, an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture may be prescribed. If that doesn’t help a medication that stimulates saliva production, called Salagen, may be prescribed.
Other steps you can take that may help improve saliva flow include:
- Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
- Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
- Protecting your teeth by brushing with a fluoridetoothpaste, using a fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist regularly
- Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible
- Using a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air
- Using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute