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Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth

Medically known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a dental problem characterised by the salivary glands’ inability to produce saliva sufficient to maintain the moistness of the mouth. Sometimes, dry mouth is caused by ageing, certain medications and radiation therapy. Very rarely, dry mouth may come as a result of issues directly impacting the salivary glands.

Saliva does a lot for a healthy mouth. It washes food particles away, neutralises acid from bacteria, improves taste and makes chewing and swallowing easy. Digestion is also aided by the enzymes present in saliva.

Insufficient saliva can cause mild to severe problems that affect your gums, teeth, overall health, appetite and ability to enjoy food.

What causes dry mouth determines the treatment.

Symptoms of dry mouth

  • Loss of moisture or sticky sensation in the mouth
  • Thickflowing saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Problems with swallowing, chewing and speaking
  • Dry or sore throat and hoarseness
  • Dry tongue
  • Abnormal sense of taste
  • Difficulty using dentures
Symptoms of dry mouth

When should you seek help?

See your doctor when you start experiencing symptoms of dry mouth.

What causes dry mouth?

The salivary glands may be unable to produce a good amount of saliva for a healthy mouth as a result of:

  • Medications: Dry mouth is a side-effect of many prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Examples include antidepressants and medications for anxiety, high blood pressure, pain, some antihistamines, etc.
  • Ageing: As people become old, they have dry mouth, and it’s supported by poor nutrition, long-term illnesses, certain medications and alterations in the body’s processing of medication.
  • Cancer therapy: Radiation from this treatment can impair salivary glands and cutback saliva production.
  • Nerve damage: This causes dry mouth when the nerves in the neck and head are damaged by injury.
  • Use of alcohol and tobacco: Symptoms of dry mouth exacerbate with smoking, drinking and tobacco use.
  • Use of recreational drugs: Marijuana, methamphetamine and others can trigger dryness in the mouth.
  • Other health conditions: Stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and others can cause dry mouth. Again, dry mouth is caused by snoring and breathing with an open mouth.

Complications

Dry mouth can progress into:

  • Sores in the mouth
  • Severe plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
  • Yeast infection in the mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Inadequate nutrition as a result of the difficulty in chewing and swallowing

Diagnosing dry mouth

Your doctor will look at your mouth, scrutinise your medical history and all the medications you’re taking to identify dry mouth.

Blood tests, scans of salivary glands, or tests to check your saliva production may often be done to diagnose this condition. If Sjogren’s syndrome is responsible for dry mouth, a biopsy will be taken for laboratory testing.

Treatment for dry mouth

This depends on the cause of your dry mouth:

  • Where dry mouth is caused by medication, your doctor may alter your dosage or change your medication
  • Your doctor may prescribe some anti-dry mouth products like artificial saliva, moisturisers, etc.

Where dry mouth is severe, your doctor may recommend saliva stimulating medications like pilocarpine (Salagen). They may also prescribe tooth protection products like fluoride trays and chlorhexidine rinse for cavity control.

Self-care measures

These tips can prevent dry mouth symptoms at home:

  • Sip water throughout the day and during meals
  • Eat sugar-free gum and candies
  • Use over-the-counter saliva substitutes like Mouth Kote
  • Breathe through your nose
  • Use room humidifier
  • Use lip moisturisers for cracked lips

Avoid dry mouth stimulants like:

  • Alcohol and caffeine
  • Foods and drinks that are sugary and acidic
  • Tobacco products
  • Over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines

Protecting your teeth can alleviate dry mouth, so:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and floss
  • Before you sleep, rinse your mouth with fluoride rinse
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a dental examination

Getting ready for your appointment

You should do the following before seeing your doctor:

  • Note every symptom you have
  • Identify your lifestyle factors inducing dry mouth
  • Note all medications you take
  • Note all the questions to ask your doctor

Basic questions to ask the healthcare provider

  • What’s responsible for my dry mouth
  • Is my dry mouth temporary or permanent?
  • Which treatment is best?
  • Etc

Questions your doctor may likely ask you

  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Do you have periodic or continuous symptoms?
  • Do you smoke or drink?

For more information and treatment for dry mouth, visit Smile Clinic London or call us on 0207 139 8611 to schedule an appointment today.