What is Dry
Dry mouth (xerostomia)
is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva
in the mouth when the salivary glands do not
work properly. The salivary glands help keep
your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth
decay and other oral health problems.
over-the-counter medications are the most common
cause of dry mouth. In fact, more than 400
medications can contribute to mouth dryness. The
most common troublemakers are antihypertensives,
antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers,
diuretics and antihistamines.
Dry mouth may be a
sign of a serious health condition or may occur
when a person is upset or experiences stress. It
also can be caused by radiation therapy and
chemotherapy hormonal alterations or diseases
such as AIDS, diabetes or Sjögren's syndrome.
Patients with Alzheimer's disease or those who
suffer a stroke may experience dry mouth.
Approximately 30 percent of persons over the age
of 65 are affected by dry mouth.
Can dry mouth
cause health problems?
Yes. You want to
prevent dry mouth if possible, because it can
cause difficulty in tasting, chewing or
swallowing. It also allows plaque to build up on
your teeth faster, leading to a higher risk of
cavities. In certain cases, a lack of moisture
can make your tongue become very sensitive,
causing a condition called burning mouth
syndrome. Dry mouth can also lead to bad breath,
ulceration or soreness of the mouth, gum disease
and difficulty in wearing dentures.
Why is saliva
Saliva helps wash
away cavity-causing bacteria, provides enzymes
to help digest food, protects teeth from decay
by neutralizing harmful acids and keeps oral
tissues healthy. Without saliva, you would lose
your teeth much faster.
is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to
attack its own moisture-producing glands.
Approximately 1-4 million Americans have this
condition. The majority of sufferers are women
who are in their late 40s at the time of
is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary
greatly. Patients may experience dryness in the
eyes and mouth, fatigue or joint pain, and it
also mimics the natural signs of aging.
How can my
Your dentist will
want to know if you have difficulty swallowing
or speaking, oral soreness or a dry throat. Help
your dentist to diagnose the problem by paying
close attention to the symptoms associated with
dry mouth. If you have any questions about this
condition, ask your dentist.
There are many
treatments that can help ease the symptoms of
dry mouth, including over-the-counter saliva
substitutes. To ease discomfort, your dentist
may also recommend the following:
floss twice a day
juices (tomato, orange, grapefruit)
foods, such as toast or crackers