Tooth Talk: Do You Have Xerostomia?

Do you have xerostomia?

Your answer is most likely: “I hope not!”

Fear not! Xerostomia is actually the medical name for “Dry Mouth.”

Dry mouth is not something to be ignored or taken lightly.

Dry mouth is caused by the lack of saliva for a long period of time. Multiple causes for dry mouth exist, including medications, diseases, and certain medical treatments.

Dry mouth is uncomfortable, but more importantly, it increases your risk of dental decay, which can destroy your teeth very rapidly. It also makes it difficult for dentures to fit properly. If you feel that your mouth is dry most of the time, you should tell your dentist. Your dentist should recommend a variety of ways to treat your symptoms and protect your mouth and teeth. Oral rinses, fluoride applications, dietary counseling, and oral hygiene methods are a few of the common recommendations.

Dry mouth also has other health consequences. Chewing and swallowing become increasingly difficult which impacts your ability to eat and enjoy certain foods. This can lead to serious digestive and nutritional problems. Dry mouth often makes it difficult to speak, causes a sore mouth, throat, and tongue, bad breath and hoarseness. Tell you physician about your symptoms and request assistance in managing your symptoms and eliminating the cause, if possible.

There are over 400 medications that result in dry mouth. The medications range from over-the-counter to antihistamines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, high blood pressure medicines, and pain medications. Other causes include: cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy of the head and neck, hormone changes, systemic diseases like diabetes and many others. Snoring and open-mouth breathing increase dry mouth symptoms. Anxiety and stress may also trigger dry mouth.

Relieve dry mouth symptoms by drinking plenty of water, sucking on ice chips or drinking sugar-free and caffeine-free drinks. Avoid irritants such as, alcohol and tobacco, salty and spicy foods. Use a humidifier in your room at night. Consider using a saliva substitute, either over-the-counter or by prescription. There are a variety of forms of saliva substitutes; rinses, sprays, swabs, gels, and tablets that dissolve in the mouth.