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Dry-Mouth

Dry-Mouth (Xerostomia): The saliva produced in your mouth has important functions in lubrication of mucosa and foods, digestion of foods, and protection of teeth. Three pairs or salivary glands, and 800-1000 minor salivary glands secrete saliva into the mouth. Dry mouth as a result of a reduced salivary flow is a very common complaint by patients.

A temporary reduction in salivary output can result as a consequence of fear / stress of a particular situation.

Common causes of dry mouth:

  1. Older age
  2. Medications (anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-histamines and many more)
  3. Dehydration
  4. Diabetes
  5. Sjögrens Syndrome – a disease affecting the glands that produce saliva and tears.
  6. Radiotheraphy to the head and neck region – damaging the salivary glands
  7. Mouth breathing
  8. Smoking / Alcohol

Effects of a dry mouth:

  • Patients feel thirsty
  • The comfort of chewing, eating talking is affected
  • Swallowing harder
  • Speech and sleep may be affected
  • Comfort / retention of dentures
  • Poorer taste / bad breath
  • Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
  • Burning sensation of mucosa

Management

  • Ideally includes managing the underlying cause (example: changing medication).
  • Drinking plenty of water and sucking ice.
  • Sugar-free chewing gum.
  • Reducing caffeine / alcohol thereby reducing dehydration.
  • Petroleum jelly / olive oil to lips and oral mucosa to reduce cracking from drying
  • Saliva substitutes (sprays / gels) – commercially available / prescribed
  • Mouth washes / stronger fluoride toothpastes to reduce of risk of tooth decay.
  • Prescribed medication – in selected cases Pilocarpine may be an option.