Dry mouth is also known as xerostomia. In most cases, the condition is caused by the salivary glands failing to produce adequate lubrication. Dry mouth is a common side effect of medication. It may also be caused by a medical condition that impacts the salivary gland.
Dry mouth is a common occurrence, ranging from being a simple nuisance to something that affects overall health. It might also alter the way you enjoy food.
Saliva is vital in preventing tooth decay. It limits bacterial growth and neutralizes the acids produced by oral bacteria. It also helps in washing away food particles in the mouth. Saliva enhances your ability to taste and facilitates the swallowing of food. The enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.
Dry Mouth Symptoms
When you do not produce enough saliva, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Dryness of the mouth and throat
- Thick and stringy saliva
- Bad breath
- Difficulty in speaking, chewing and swallowing
- Change in sense of taste
- Difficulty wearing dentures
- Frequent tooth decay
- Gum disease and irritation
Causes of Dry Mouth
The following may cause dry mouth:
- Medications – Many medications may produce dry mouth as a side effect. The most common drugs that cause dry mouth include medication to treat depression and neuropathy, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, decongestants, and pain medicines.
- Cancer therapy – Chemotherapy drugs may alter saliva production, although this is usually temporary. Radiation treatments to the neck and head can damage salivary glands, resulting in a significant reduction in saliva production.
- Nerve damage – A surgery or injury can cause damage to the nerves in the head and neck and may result in dry mouth.
Dry mouth treatments may include the following:
- Change to medications – If a drug is associated with dry mouth, talk to your doctor about prescribing an alternative.
- Mouth moisturizers – There are prescription and over-the counter products to lubricate the mouth, including mouth rinses and artificial saliva.
- Saliva-enhancing medications – Your doctor may prescribe medications that will stimulate the production of saliva, such as pilocarpine or cevimeline.
- Teeth protection – Your dentist may prescribe fluoride trays to be worn over your teeth for a few minutes at night.
Dry mouth conditions can also be helped with lifestyle changes and some home remedies such as chewing sugar-free gum to keep the mouth lubricated.