Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a condition in which salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva helps prevent tooth damage by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting the growth of bacteria and washing residual food residues. Saliva also improves the ability to taste and makes chewing and swallowing easier. In addition, saliva enzymes help to digest properly.
Decreasing the amount of saliva produced may have more or less negative effects on the body. In severe cases, insufficient saliva has a major impact on the health of teeth and gums, as well as on appetite. The treatment for xerostomia depends on the cause that triggered it.
Find out below which are the main reasons you face dry mouth, what other symptoms you can have and how this problem can be treated!
Causes of dry mouth syndrome
Dry mouth sensation occurs when salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep their mouths wet. Among the causes of xerostomia are:
Administration of certain medicines. Hundreds of medications, including many prescription drugs, give the patient the feeling of dry mouth as a side effect. Among the pills with the greatest predisposition to cause problems are some of the treatments used to treat depression, high blood pressure and anxiety, as well as some antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants and pain medications.
Old age. Many people experience dry mouth as they become aging due to the administration of certain medicines, the body’s inability to process medication, inadequate nutrition, or specific health problems.
Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can change the appearance, nature and texture of the saliva as well as the amount produced. This reaction may be temporary, with the normal return of salivary flow after treatment. Radiological treatments followed for the head and neck area can affect the salivary glands, causing a significant decrease in saliva production. This reaction can be both temporary and permanent, depending on the radiation dose and the treated area.
Nerve damage. A wound or surgery that causes nerve damage in the head and neck area can trigger, among other side effects, dry mouth sensation.
Other health problems. Dry mouth can be caused by certain health problems, such as diabetes, stroke or Alzheimer’s disease. You may also be experiencing this syndrome because of autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV / AIDS infection. Snoring and breathing with an open mouth can also help dry the mouth.
Smoking and alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol, smoking and/or chewing tobacco can increase the symptoms of dry mouth.
Drug use. Methamphetamine may trigger a severely dry mouth and may lead to tooth decay, a condition known as the “metastatic mouth”. Marijuana can also cause dry mouth.
Symptoms of dry mouth
If you do not produce enough saliva, you may notice these signs and symptoms:
- Dryness or sticky feeling in the mouth
- Saliva that looks thick and stringent
- Bad breath (halen)
- Difficulty in chewing, talking and swallowing (swallowing)
- Dry or painful neck and hoarseness
- Dry or worn tongue
- Changing the taste of food
- Problems with wearing dentures and dental appliances of any nature
- Common thirst
- Feeling dry in the interior
If you notice the signs and symptoms mentioned above persist, schedule an appointment with your doctor as a matter of urgency to find out why you are experiencing these problems.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) – complications
If you do not produce enough saliva and you develop xerostomia, you may suffer from one of the following complications:
- The appearance of plaque, dental caries and gum disease
- Cracked lips and mouth corners (mouthpieces)
- The appearance of the mouth
- The appearance of oral candidiasis
- Lack of proper nutrition due to chewing problems and food ingestion.
Dry mouth – diagnosis
To determine the cause of dry mouth, your doctor will examine your medical history and will investigate all the medicines you take, including those without a prescription. Of course, he will perform an oral cavity exam. Sometimes you may also need blood tests, salivary gland scanning, or tests that measure the amount of saliva that you produce to identify the cause of the dry mouth. If the doctor suspects that the dry mouth is caused by Sjogren’s syndrome, he may require a biopsy.
Dry mouth (xerostomy) – treatment and prevention
The treatment of xerostomia depends on the causes that have triggered your dry mouth sensation. It may consist of:
- Changing medicines that cause your mouth to dry – if your doctor thinks the medicine is the cause, it can adjust your dose, or it may pass you on another medicine that does not dry your mouth.
- Mouth moisturizing products – these can be mouthwash, artificial saliva/saliva gel or moisturizing products to lubricate your mouth.
- Medicines that stimulate salivation – your doctor may prescribe pilocarpine or cevimeline medicines to stimulate saliva production.
- Wearing fluoride gel filled gills.
- Weekly use of chlorhexidine mouthwash to prevent cavities.
Besides the doctor’s advice, these things can help you diminish and even eliminate the symptoms of dry mouth:
- Consume many liquids, mainly water and sugar-free drinks. To relieve unpleasant symptoms of chewing and swallowing, drink water during meals.
- Chewing gum without sugar or sucking sugar-free sweet candy. Products containing xylitol can also help prevent caries. However, in some people, excessive xylitol, often found in gums or sugary candies, can cause gas or diarrhea.
- Try using saliva replacers containing xylitol or carboxymethylcellulose.
- Try breathing through the nose, not the mouth. You may also need a snoring treatment if that makes you breathe during the night.
- Use a humidifier in the room where you sleep.
- Moist your lips constantly.
- Avoid products that worsen your symptoms. These include coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, antihistamines, decongestants, acidified or full-sugar products.