Dry mouth occurs when a person's mouth lacks sufficient saliva to keep it moist. We all get dry mouth at times but a person who experiences dry mouth all the time suffers from a condition called xerostomia. Saliva is more than just a mouth moisturizerラit also aids chewing swallowing and digestion controls the amount of bacteria and fungi in our mouths cleans the teeth and gums and protects them from decay. It also remineralizes the teeth by providing necessary doses of calcium and phosphate. Xerostomia then can affect a person's diet nutritional health speech and sense of taste; lower a person's ability to tolerate dental treatments especially those involving dental reconstruction; and leave a person more prone to dental caries or tooth structure decay.

Symptoms include:

sticky dry sensation in the mouth difficulty with any of the following: chewing swallowing tasting or speaking burning sensation in the mouth dry or sore throat dry tongue cracked lips mouth sores mouth infection bad breath frequent thirst hoarseness

Xerostomia can be caused by:

Medication. Over 500 medicines including antidepressants diuretics antiseptics and antihistamines have been found to cause dry mouth.

ᄋ Disease. Several diseases hinder the performance of the salivary glands. These diseases include HIV/AIDS Parkinson's and Sjorgen's Syndrome an autoimmune disorder that attacks the salivary and tear glands.

ᄋ Cancer treatment. Radiation on or near the salivary glands can damage them. Chemotherapy can thicken saliva and lead to dry sensations in the mouth.

ᄋ Nerve damage. Head or neck injury can impair communication between the nerves and the salivary glands slowing or stopping saliva production.

Since Xerostomia is often a symptom of another condition treating the underlying condition will often eliminate the xerostomia as well. In cases where it is a result of a necessary treatment or in cases where the cause cannot be treated a dentist must intervene to combat the xerostomia. He or she might prescribe medication to stimulate the salivary glands to increase their saliva production or suggest artificial saliva. If the xerostomania is caused by medication treatment might be as simple as changing the dose of the medication or trying another medication.

The patient too can take steps to combat or control their xerostomia. These steps include:

ᄋ Drinking water or other sugar-free drinks frequently

ᄋ Avoiding mouth-drying substances like caffeine alcohol and tobacco

ᄋ Sipping water during meals to facilitate chewing and swallowing

ᄋ Chewing sugarless gum or candy to stimulate saliva flow

ᄋ Using a humidifier at night

ᄋ Moistening dry foods with gravy soup or sauce when possible

ᄋ Practicing proper dental care

Have specific questions?

All Article Categories

Before & After Photos

Suggested Doctors

Recently Asked Questions