What is Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

What is Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

What Is Dry Mouth? 

Dry mouth, known medically as Xerostomia, occurs when the salivary glands found in the mouth, do not make enough saliva to keep it wet.  

Though dry mouth is often nothing to be concerned about, it can be quite annoying and make you feel uncomfortable. 

The lack of saliva in the mouth can also have an impact on other areas of your oral health and affect your everyday life and enjoyment of food. 

Common Symptoms

The lack of sufficient saliva in the mouth can lead to a number of symptoms including:

  • Bad breath
  • Your mouth feels dry or sticky
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Sore throat and hoarseness (you may have difficulty speaking)
  • Cracked tongue and lips
  • Dentures becoming uncomfortable to wear
  • Tooth decay (discovered by your dentist)

What Causes It? 

There are a number of factors things that can cause dry mouth or exacerbate it.  

The main causes  include: 

  • Certain medications can decrease the amount of saliva produced in the mouth
  • Radiation therapy (used in the treatment of cancer)
  • General aging can lead to a decrease in the production of saliva 
  • Dehydration
  • A condition that affects the salivary glands (less common)

The Impact On Your Health

Salvia is a very important component of your overall oral health.  It works to prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria. It also works to wash away particles of food that are left in the mouth after eating.  If these particles remain, it can lead to bad breath. 

Saliva is also important in how we taste, chew and swallow our food and contain enzymes that aid the digestion of food in the stomach.

If dry mouth continues over an extended period of time, you are at greater risk of tooth decay and gum disease, sores inside the mouth, oral thrush, cracked and split lips.  

If dry mouth is severe and affecting your appetite, then it can cause a lack of proper nutrition and unwanted weight loss. 

Diagnosis

Dry mouth is very easily diagnosed, but your doctor will want to determine what has caused it and treat any underlying medical issues you may have. 

They will take a detailed medical history, review all of your prescribed and over the counter medications. They will also ask you about your general lifestyle, diet and drinking habits.   

An examination of the mouth might be required and if indicated, blood tests and scans might be arranged to make sure there is no underlying cause in the salivary glands.

If there is shown to be a potential underlying issue with the salivary glands, a small biopsy will be taken.  

Treatments 

The course of treatment recommended will depend on what is causing your dry mouth in the first place.  In many cases, simple lifestyle changes are enough to keep it under control. 

Lifestyle Changes 

  • Drinking water regularly throughout the day and keeping a glass of water by your bed at night. 
  • Use sugar-free sweets and gum – they stimulate the production of saliva. 
  • Stop smoking. 
  • Use a rich lip balm to prevent your lips from cracking.  A one with vaseline is a good choice as it will leave a protective film. 
  • Practice good oral hygiene – brush your teeth at least twice a day and use an alcohol-free mouth wash. 
  • Limit the amount of acidic, spicy, sugary and salty foods you eat. 
  • Reduce the amount of caffeine, soda, and alcohol you drink. 
  • Breathe through your nose and use a humidifier at night.

Medical Treatments

Depending on what has caused your symptoms, your doctor may ask you to stop taking or switch medications (never stop taking a medication without speaking to your doctor). 

They may also prescribe a mouth rinse or artificial saliva. If your dry mouth is particularly bad, they may prescribe specific medications meant to stimulate saliva production. 

If your dentist is concerned that the health of your teeth and gums may be affected, they may prescribe a weekly rinse to control cavities of fluoride trays to wear over your teeth while you are sleeping.

What Should You Do If You Are Experiencing Symptoms Of Dry Mouth? 

We hope this article answers your question about what is dry mouth. If you are experiencing symptoms, mention it to your dentist or doctor, who can help find the cause and work with you to devise a treatment plan. 

Remember, in the vast majority of cases, simple lifestyle changes or modifying your medications are all that is needed to reverse the condition.