One of the most frequent complaints we hear from our patients is dry mouth or in clinical terms xerostomia. Lack or decreased saliva hampers our ability to chew and digest food and increases our susceptibility to oral infections. Saliva is essential to cleansing our mouth and controlling fungi and bacteria. Although xerostomia is not a disease, it is a disorder and it can be very frustrating. Xerostomia symptoms also include soreness, burning and inflammation of the mucus membranes and tongue, dry throat, bad breath and increased thirst.
As it relates to dentistry, dry mouth may make it difficult and uncomfortable to wear dentures. It increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Xerostomia can also cause soreness and burning sensations in the mouth.
Xerostomia can be broken down into short-term or reversible causes or more long-term or chronic causes. The short-term reversible causes consist of dehydration, emotional stress, blockage, trauma or infection of the saliva glands, vitamin A or vitamin B deficiency, and medications such as antihistamines, atropine, and diuretics just to name a few. Certain habits such as breathing through the mouth or smoking can also lead to dry mouth.
Long term chronic causes such as the lack of salivary gland development, radiation of the salivary glands or surrounding tissue (this may be temporary or permanent), diseases or conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome or salivary gland tumors, diabetes, stoke and HIV-AIDS among others.
Depending on the cause, there are several treatment options. For example, if there is a blockage, removal of the blockage is necessary. If there is an infection of the salivary gland, taking certain medications such as antibiotics or antifungal are in order and taking the correct vitamins and dosages if there is a deficiency. Also, the use of chewing gum with Xylitol and Biotene mouthwash also will help keep your mouth moist and don’t forget to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Always consult your physician for medical advice and see your dentist regularly!
Dinesh J. Patel D.D.S