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:
- Older age
- Medications (anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-histamines and many more)
- Sjögrens Syndrome – a disease affecting the glands that produce saliva and tears.
- Radiotheraphy to the head and neck region – damaging the salivary glands
- Mouth breathing
- 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
- 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.