Posted on March 15, 2022
If you’re taking an exam or making a presentation, it’s normal to experience a dry mouth. But when it persists for an extended period, there’s likely an underlying problem. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, happens when there is insufficient saliva to keep your mouth wet. From causes to treatments, here’s what you should know about dry mouth.
The Importance of Saliva
The glands that produce the saliva (spit) in your mouth are known as salivary glands. Having them produce enough saliva is crucial for mouth health. It keeps your mouth clean and moist and removes food.
When there’s not enough saliva, you’re at risk of developing cavities, tooth decay, and other mouth diseases. You may also experience bad breath, difficulty wearing dentures or swallowing, and discomfort. More severe symptoms include tooth decay, dry skin and eyes, skin rash, and joint pain.
Causes of Dry Mouth
It’s important to note that dry mouth is not a condition itself – it’s a symptom of a condition.
If you’re dehydrated, have nerve damage to the head and neck area, or use tobacco and alcohol, you may develop dry mouth symptoms. Less commonly, dry mouth is caused by a condition that directly affects the salivary glands.
Many medications, such as certain antidepressants, antihistamines, muscle relaxants, and blood pressure drugs, may list “dry mouth” as a potential side effect. Dry mouth is also commonly associated with the process of aging.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in five older adults have dry mouth. This is due to certain medications, changes in the body's ability to process medication, inadequate nutrition, and long-term health problems.
People who experience radiation therapy (especially for head and neck cancers) may also have dry mouths. Chemotherapy drugs sometimes alter the nature of saliva, resulting in less saliva produced. Radiation may damage salivary glands and create less saliva. The effects of cancer therapy on saliva production may be temporary or permanent.
Dry mouth can indicate a more serious medical condition, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Sjorgren’s syndrome.
Treating Dry Mouth
Effectively treating dry mouth involves determining the actual cause. If dry mouth is due to medications, your doctor may decide to reduce your dose or find you an alternative drug.
Dry mouth can also be helped by:
- Drinking more fluids
- Sucking on sugar-free sweets or gum to stimulate your salivary glands
- Sucking on ice cubes to moisten your mouth
- Avoiding decongestants and antihistamines if possible
- Moistening your mouth with water before swallowing pills
- Avoiding habits that worsen dry mouth, such as drinking alcohol and smoking
- Taking an artificial saliva substitute to keep your mouth moist
Pilocarpine medication can be prescribed if your dry mouth is from radiotherapy or Sjogren's syndrome.
If you’re experiencing persistent dry mouth signs and symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment. Reach out to us today to get relief for your dry mouth!
"Dr. Jason McNamee and his team have met and exceeded all of this criteria, I am very happy with them. My family and I will continue to support them for many years to come" - Cliff EtkinsRead More
"Absolutely everyone in your office was superb: kind, professional, respectful, supportive, and did everything they could to help me....All of it is a testament to your professionalism, your office culture and business practice, and your sincere kindness. I simply can't thank you enough." - Ellen FosterRead More