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Xerostomia (Dry Mouth): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Oct 05, 2023

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

A condition known as dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when your salivary glands are unable to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. An adverse drug reaction, diseases associated with aging, or radiation therapy for cancer are common causes of dry mouth. Less frequently, a condition that directly impacts the salivary glands could be the cause of dry mouth.

By neutralizing the acids that bacteria make, restricting bacterial development, and washing away food particles, saliva helps prevent tooth decay. Additionally, saliva improves flavor perception and facilitates chewing and swallowing. Enzymes that help in digestion are also present in saliva.

Your general health, the health of your teeth and gums, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food, can all be significantly impacted by decreased saliva and dry mouth, which can range from being merely annoying to being a serious issue.

Treatment for dry mouth is based on the underlying reason.


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Causes Of Xerostomia

A dry mouth happens when your salivary glands are unable to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. These glands may not operate properly due to:

  • Medications: Hundreds of therapies, including some over-the-counter medications, can cause dry mouth as a side effect. The medications most likely to cause problems include some of the ones prescribed to treat depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety, as well as some antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and pain relievers.
  • Aging: Many older people have dry mouths as they age. Contributing factors include the use of some medications, changes in the body's ability to metabolize pharmaceuticals, inadequate nutrition, and chronic health difficulties.
  • Treatment for cancer: Chemotherapy medicines can alter the kind and volume of saliva produced. If the medication is effective, the salivary flow may return to normal, making this a transient condition. Salivary gland damage brought on by radiation treatments to the head and neck may result in a considerable decrease in salivation. This may be temporary or permanent, depending on the radiation dose and the area being treated.
  • Nerve damage: An accident or surgery that harms the nerves in your head and neck area may result in a dry mouth.
  • Other health issues: Dry mouth may be brought on by a number of medical disorders, including diabetes, stroke, oral yeast infection (thrush), Alzheimer's disease, or autoimmune diseases like Sjogren's syndrome or HIV/AIDS. Dry mouth can also be exacerbated by snoring and mouth breathing.
  • Use of alcohol and tobacco: Alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and chewing tobacco use can all worsen the symptoms of dry mouth.
  • Recreational drugs: The condition known as "meth mouth" is brought on by using methamphetamine and can result in extreme dry mouth and tooth damage. Dry mouth is a side effect of marijuana.

Symptoms Of Xerostomia

If your saliva production is insufficient, you may suffer all or the majority of the following signs and symptoms:

  • The sensation of having a sticky or dry mouth
  • The appearance of stringy, thick saliva
  • Poor breath
  • Chewing, speaking, and swallowing challenges
  • Hoarseness, a dry or sore throat, and
  • Grainy or dry tongue
  • Changes in taste Issues with wearing dentures
  • Additionally, dry mouth can cause lipstick to adhere to the teeth.

Diagnosis Of Xerostomia

Your doctor will probably examine your medical history, all of the medications you're taking, including over-the-counter medications, and do a mouth exam in order to identify the source of your dry mouth.

To determine the source of your dry mouth, you may occasionally need blood tests, salivary gland imaging scans, or tests that measure how much saliva you make. A small sample of cells (biopsy) is obtained from the salivary glands in your lip and sent for testing if your doctor feels like Sjogren's syndrome is the reason for your dry mouth.

Treatment Of Xerostomia

Your course of treatment will depend on the cause of your dry mouth. A dentist or doctor for you might:

  • Change any dry mouth-causing drugs: Your doctor may change your dosage or prescribe a different medicine if they think your drug is to blame. This medication won't make your mouth dry.
  • Offer mouth-moisturizing products as recommendations: These could include artificial saliva, prescription or over-the-counter mouthwashes, or moisturizers to moisten your mouth. Mouthwashes with xylitol, such as Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse and Act Dry Mouth Mouthwash, which also provide tooth decay protection, are good mouthwashes for dry mouth.

In the event that you have severe dry mouth, your dentist or doctor might:

  • Prescribe a saliva-stimulating medication: To increase salivation, your doctor may advise pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac).
  • Protect your teeth: Your dentist may recommend fluoride trays for you to fill with fluoride and put over your teeth at night in order to avoid cavities. To prevent cavities, your dentist could also advise using a chlorhexidine rinse once a week.

Complications Of Xerostomia

Dry mouth brought on by insufficient saliva can result in:

  • Gum disease, tooth decay, and increased plaque
  • Oral sores
  • Thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth
  • Cracked lips, sores, or damaged skin at the corners of your mouth
  • Nutritional deficiencies brought on by difficulties swallowing and chewing

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