Dry Mouth

(Xerostomia)

Dry mouth is the condition of not having enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. It is known as xerostomia

Saliva is necessary to help protect the teeth in these important ways:

  • Saliva constantly flushes the mouth to clear food debris that may act as a food supply for the bacteria in plaque.
  • It reduces the pH (acidity) of the waste products produced by plaque which helps to limit tooth decay by these acid attacks.
  • Saliva is the source of systemic fluorides and minerals needed for the remineralization of damaged dental enamel.
  • It helps digest food
  • It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth
  • It makes it possible for you to chew and swallow

Saliva does not flow evenly through the mouth. There are saliva “highways”, such as the tongue side of the lower molars, where the flow is greater and faster. There are saliva “byways” such as the check side of the upper incisors where to flow is less and slower. The result is that plaque will be more cavity causing on the byways than the highways of the mouth.

Saliva covers the teeth and gums with a protein film. Stimulated saliva offers more buffering protection than non-stimulated saliva. This is why can often help prevent caries.

Without enough saliva you can develop tooth day or other infections in your mouth and you would limit your nutritional intake if you could not chew or swallow certain foods.

Dry mouth can:

  • Cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking
  • Increase your chance of developing dental decay and other infections in the mouth
  • Be a sign of certain diseases and conditions
  • Be caused by certain medications or medical treatments

Symptoms include:

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
  • A burning feeling in the mouth
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • Cracked lips
  • A dry, tough tongue
  • Mouth sores
  • An infection in the mouth
  • Decay, when there is not an adequate supply of saliva, the rate of tooth decay increases rapidly

Most often, chronic dry mouth is caused by:

  • Side effect of drug therapy. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. Medications used to treat hypertension, anxiety, depression or psychosis cause the most difficulty. Antihistamines, antispasmodics, cancer-chemotherapy drugs, decongestants, and muscle relaxants often cause dry mouth.
  • Health conditions such as extensive radiation therapy to the face and neck can cause severe dry mouth.
  • Many disease effect saliva flow: Sjogren’s syndrome*, bacterial and viral infections, poorly controlled diabetes, salivary-gland stones, tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anxiety, HIV/AIDS, depression, Bell’s palsy, and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s and stroke can not feel the wetness in their mouth.
  • Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker causing the mouth to feel dry.
  • Nerve damage from an injury to the head or neck that tell salivary glands not to make saliva.
  • Attachment loss from periodontal disease or who have had root caries are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of xerostomia.

Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. So if you think you have dry mouth, see your dentist or physician.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR WHAT TO DO FOR DRY MOUTH

Here are some suggestions to help relieve the dryness; preserve soft tissue and help prevent the tooth decay that results from dry mouth:

  • Take frequent sips of water throughout the day.
  • Chronic dryness will make your mouth more easily irritated, so experiment to find the level of seasoning you can tolerate.
  • Us a water spray bottle to wet your mouth. Keep it near the places you work, sit and sleep.
  • Chew sugarless gum to stimulate salivary flow. Chew gum that contain xylitol, a sweetening agent that reduces cavity-causing bacteria.
  • A warm salt water or baking soda rinse can improve oral comfort when your mouth is sore.
  • Suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow; citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices.
  • Chew fibrous foods, like carrots and celery between meals.
  • Use an electric toothbrush.
  • Drink frequently while you eat. This makes chewing and swallowing easier and improves taste.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash which does not contain alcohol or sugar.
  • Use bland, non-spicy sauces (no masalas) and gravies on foods to add more moisture to the foods you eat. Be aware that spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth
  • Moisten foods with butter.
  • Limit caffeine-containing beverages because they increase dryness after drinking them.
  • Carry a toothbrush with you to brush often to decrease your risk toward cavities.
  • Do not use toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulphate which is a foaming agent because it can irritate gum tissue.
  • Limit sweet, sticky, sugary foods and high acid food they increase your risk towards cavities.
  • Always brush immediately after eating. If you can not brush, swish and swallow water as soon as possible.
  • Dentures make people with dry mouth more susceptible to infection from yeast organisms, which adhere to the plastic. Soak your denture overnight in one part chlorine beach to ten parts water to prevent infection.
  • Do not use mouth washes with alcohol or phenol in them, alcohol dries out and damages gum tissue.
  • Use fluoridated mouth rinses and gels.
  • After brushing your teeth and right before you go to bed, brush or apply this toothpaste with a cotton tip to gums and teeth for one minute, Then swish for one minute to force the gel to cover all your teeth and gum tissue. Make sure you spit out all the fluoride. Do NOT swallow or rinse your mouth after you do this. Go to bed with the fluoride residue on these surfaces. Do this again in the morning and do not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes after this routine.
  • Apply fluoride gel into a mouthguard and wear for five to ten minutes before bed and in the morning. Again, do NOT swallow any of the fluoride.
  • Avoid irritants, such as tobacco and alcohol-including high-alcohol-content mouthwashes – and products containing cinnamon, peppermint, or wintergreen – they dry out the mouth.
  • Breath through your nose (breathing through your mouth evaporates moisture).
  • Use a room vaporizer to cut down on mouth dryness especially at night.
  • If your salivary glands are not working right ask your doctor to give you a medicine called pilocarpine that helps your salivary glands to work better.
  • If you dry mouth is caused by medicine, ask your doctor to change your medicine or adjust the dosage.
  • Keep you recare appointments at least four times a year to keep your mouth healthy by having your teeth professionally cleaned, receive fluoride treatments and early detection of cavities.

RELATED NEWS ITEMS

Ethyol Reduces Radiation-Induced Dry Mouth – Jun 25, 1999 (Doc’s Guide)
Dry Mouth Syndrome Affects Dental Health – Jun 11, 2001 (E-Dental)
Dry Mouth From Diabetes Can Cause Cavities – Oct 02, 2001 (Intelihealth)
Elderly Bothered By Dry Mouth And Burning Mouth – Jan 02, 2002 (Intelihealth)