Dry mouth is more than a feeling you get when thirsty. It is a condition that occurs when your salivary glands are not making enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Other names for the condition include xerostomia, doughmouth, cottonmouth and pasties. This condition not only affects your mouth.
Saliva has enzymes, which helps with digestion. It prevents tooth decay by neutralizing bacteria acids, washed away food particles and limits bacterial growth. A dry mouth can go from being a nuisance to having an impact on your general health. It can affect the health of your gums and teeth, your appetite and your ability to enjoy food.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
This condition occurs for a number of reasons. The causes fall under four main categories, which include medications, age, cancer treatment and nerve damage. You should check the side effects on your medication.
According to the American Dental Association, the most common reason for dry mouth is lack of saliva.
Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay and maintains the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. Saliva washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Many prescription and OTC medications cause this condition. These medications include decongestants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants and antidepressants. Dry mouth can also occur from autoimmune disorders.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a severe autoimmune disease. It makes your white blood cells attack your salivary glands and mouth. Other causes may include methamphetamine use, smoking, nervousness and stress. If you want to prevent oral issues, then you should schedule regular appointments with your dentist.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
It is common for your mouth to feel dry from time to time. However, you should get worried when this feeling does not go away. If you suspect you have dry mouth, then you should look for certain symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Bad breath
- Mouth dryness
- Taste disorders
- Sore throat
A painful tongue is another symptom of xerostomia. It causes you to feel a burning sensation. This symptom can occur all of a sudden and can be severe. Other symptoms may include tooth decay, thrush, sticky saliva and salivary gland infections.
Dry Mouth Treatment Options
Treatment depends on what is causing your dryness. You should start by checking your medication. If the dryness comes from medication, then you may need to change to another drug.
It helps to get your salivary glands checked by a physician. If your salivary glands can still produce some saliva, then your doctor can prescribe you medication. There are medications available for stimulating your salivary glands. Taking the medication allows you to produce more saliva. Common medications used for stimulation includes Evoxac and Salogen tablets.
Artificial saliva is another treatment option for xerostomia. This treatment works by using artificial saliva to keep your mouth moisture.
Dry Mouth Diagnosis
To diagnose xerostomia, a medical doctor or dentist will need to examine your mouth. Your physician will ask you about your medical history. He or she also will perform imaging scans and blood tests of your salivary glands.
There are common tests used to make a diagnosis about xerostomia. These tests include a biopsy, saliography and sialometry. A biopsy is when a small sample of salivary gland tissue is taken.
The saliography takes a radiographic examination of your ducts and salivary glands. This test can identify masses and salivary gland stones. The sialometry is a procedure that measures the flow rate of your saliva.
Dry Mouth Prevention
You can take a number of steps for prevention from xerostomia. When eating a meal, you should sip on water or a drink that does not contain sugar. Hydration is critical to the production of saliva. Some drinks add to the dryness. You should avoid sodas, tea, caffeine and coffee.
Oral care products can help with producing more moisture in your mouth. You should get a recommendation from your dentist. Sugarless gum and candy is another way to stimulate saliva juices.
It is also a good idea to avoid tobacco and alcohol. These things are very drying on your mouth. The addition of sugar and acidic foods will only add to your condition. It may help to sleep with a humidifier at night as well.
Complications Associated with Dry Mouth
If you experience constant mouth dryness, then it can be uncomfortable. It can also have severe consequences to your oral health. The dryness is irritating for the soft tissues in your mouth. These conditions cause your soft tissues to become irritated and more open to infections. Saliva is very cleansing without it you have to worry about tooth decay. However, it is important to keep your gums and teeth healthy to prevent complications.
For more information about dry mouth symptoms, causes, and prevention, contact our dental team today. We’re happy to help answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Irina Kellerman-Volk is a respected general and cosmetic dentist at our dental care center. She is a 1997 graduate of New York University College of Dentistry. She is a warm and compassionate person, and she dedicates her full attention, delicate touch, and excellent clinical skills to each patient she treats. With modern dentistry, virtually anything can be fixed or corrected in a person’s teeth and smile. But it takes the skill, artistry and experience of a true specialist, combined with the latest high-tech procedures to bring about the most dazzling results. She is a caring and committed professional who is dedicated to her patients dental health. Anyone who has been treated by Dr. Kellerman-Volk can appreciate her honesty, wit, and strong sense of family values.