What is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth or xerostomia is a condition in which a person does not have enough saliva in the mouth, which can result in dryness in the mouth. Saliva is essential to keep your mouth moist and clean. It also stimulates digestion and prevents bacterial and fungal infections. Dry mouth can be a sign of certain diseases, and if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications.
Causes of Dry Mouth
The common causes of dry mouth include:
- Certain medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-epileptics, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, and diuretics.
- Diseases including HIV/AIDS, Sjogren's syndrome, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, anaemia, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's disease, and mumps
- Breathing through your mouth due to a blocked nose or other reasons
- The calcified structure called salivary gland stone may cause blockages in the salivary glands, preventing the normal secretion of saliva
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- Dehydration due to vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive sweating
- Nerve damage in the head and neck region due to injury or surgery
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
The common symptoms of dry mouth are:
- Dry feeling in your mouth and throat
- The tendency for the tongue to stick to the roof of your mouth
- Frequent feeling of thirst
- Mouth ulcers and cracked lips
- Burning or tingling sensations on the tongue
- Bad breath
- Hoarseness and sore throat
- Thick saliva
- Dry mouth can cause complications such as tooth decay, mouth infection, difficulty in chewing, tasting and swallowing food, and difficulty in speaking.
Diagnosis of Dry Mouth
When you visit your doctor with the symptoms of dry mouth, he/she will review your medical history for medical conditions and treatments, and conduct a physical analysis. Your doctor may also perform an examination of your teeth in order to identify a pattern of tooth decay and conduct saliva tests.
Treatment for Dry Mouth
Treatment for dry mouth is based on the cause.
- Non-surgical method: The conventional method of treating dry mouth is to drink lots of water, suck ice cubes, chew sugar-free gum and maintain good dental hygiene by brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs if your dry mouth is caused by infection. Artificial saliva substitutes and saliva stimulants available over-the-counter can also help. Your doctor may change or reduce the dose of medicine causing dry mouth or treat the underlying condition.
- Surgical method: Salivary gland stones can be surgically removed under local or general anaesthesia to help resume the normal secretion of saliva.
Prevention for Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can be prevented by the following measures:
- Eating foods that require a lot of chewing
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, spicy food and caffeinated drinks
- Visit your dentist regularly and maintain good oral hygiene
- Use an air humidifier while sleeping
- Chew sugar-free gum often