Xerostomia is a common oral health condition more commonly known as dry mouth. This is the result of underproductive salivary glands.
When these glands fail to produce enough saliva, it causes an uncomfortably dry, parched feeling in your mouth.
While it is not necessarily a dangerous condition, dry mouth can lead to many more serious problems if it goes untreated.
Dry mouth often causes bad breath and even halitosis, which is a chronic condition that lingers for long periods.
Sufferers of Xerostomia often experience a dry throat and chapped lips. One of the most serious side effects of untreated, dry mouth is tooth decay.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, you should visit a dental practice. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is vital to share your medical history and full prescription history with the Principal Dentist.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Many factors can negatively affect saliva production, including medical conditions and medications. Dehydration of any kind can lead to Xerostomia .
Dehydration can be caused by intense physical exertion, fever, diarrhea, blood loss, burns, or excessive burns. It can also be caused by certain conditions such as diabetes.
Due to increases in glucose in the blood, diabetic dehydration keeps the body from being adequately hydrated.
Dry mouth can be a direct result of other medical conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, arthritis, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease.
Radiation and chemotherapy are common examples of medical treatments that can cause damage to the salivary glands and therefore reduce the amount of salivary production.
Nerve damage can also result in reduced production of saliva.
Medications such as stimulants, opiate pain medications, tranquilizers, appetite suppressants, bronchodilators (for asthma) certain antihistamines, and antidepressants can also cause Xerostomia .
Legal substances such as tobacco affect the production of saliva, as do some illegal substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Breathing with your mouth open will also lead to dry mouth.
Benefits of Saliva
Salivary glands produce saliva and are located inside each cheek. The harder you chew; the more saliva is created. There are hundreds of minor salivary glands, but six of them are the major.
Normally the human body produces between 2 to 4 pints each day, the majority of which is produced in the late afternoon.
Saliva is a necessary part of your digestion process. It is the fluid that washes away the food in your mouth. It helps fight bacteria from infecting your mouth and protects tooth enamel.
Germs thrive in a mouth that does not have enough saliva. It helps keep your breath fresh. If you wear dentures saliva is vital to keeping them in place.
Xerostomia Symptoms and Signs
Obvious symptoms of Xerostomia include an uncomfortably dry mouth, tongue, and throat.
Less obvious symptoms are headaches, hoarseness, discolored or pale gums, dry eyes, thirst, cracked or dry lips, dizziness, an altered sense of taste, chronic cough, nausea, and of course tooth decay.
Effects of Dry Mouth
According to Harvard Medical School, having a chronic Xerostomia can jeopardize your dental health. Those who do not treat their dry mouth will almost always experience worsening mandibular odor or bad breath.
After a period of time untreated, this can develop into halitosis.
If a mouth is not moistened continuously with saliva, tooth decay and gum disease are inevitable. Bacteria secrete acids that damage teeth and saliva naturally neutralize it.
How to Prevent Dry Mouth
If you think you may suffer from Xerostomia, look immediately for a dentist in Southend. There are many ways to keep your mouth moistened. Here are some tips:
- Drinking sugar-free drinks such as seltzer throughout the day can help keep your mouth from getting dry. Drink water during meals to help aid digestion. Sucking on ice or sugar-free candy, especially products that contain xylitol may help prevent cavities. Not drinking products that contain caffeine and sugar can also help protect teeth from decay. Alcohol and tobacco should be avoided as well.
- Breathing through your mouth should be limited. Most people do this unconsciously during sleep. Use a humidifier to moisten the air.
- Talk to your doctor before using certain OTC allergy medications as they may worsen your condition.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwash to stimulate saliva production.
- Use lip-balm to moisten chapped lips.
If you have dry mouth, seeing your dentist at least twice yearly to have your teeth examined can help prevent tooth decay.