What is a dry mouth?
Dry mouth, or also known as xerostomia, is a condition where the salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva. It can happen to everyone to have a dryer mouth than usual, but as long as it’s temporary it’s probably not a big deal. If this starts happening very often, or if it’s a condition that’s been present for a longer time, that raises red alarms. If you are dehydrated you might also feel that in your oral cavity, and it is a temporary thing that will go away once you hydrate properly. Also, the same thing can happen if you are anxious or nervous.
What is the importance of saliva?
Saliva is one of the most important factors in your mouth that keeps the whole oral cavity safe from bacteria and help with many functions. First of all, saliva contains many proteins that neutralize the harmful products of bacteria and also acids. It also cleans the surfaces of the oral cavity from food leftovers and bacteria. This is how it fights against caries. Saliva is very helpful in the whole process of digesting the food. Once you bite onto food, saliva moistens the bite and helps it move through the oral cavity and esophagus without damaging any tissues. Also, the digesting process starts in the mouth, with the enzymes that the saliva contains. It effectively helps your ability to taste the food.
Saliva fights against fungi and viruses, and it protects your mouth from ulcers and sores. If the glands don’t produce enough saliva, that will affect all of the functions in the mouth, including chewing, swallowing and speaking.
The symptoms of a dry mouth are very easy to notice. You will start feeling a very dry and sticky feeling that you usually don’t feel. You will notice that you have less saliva in your mouth and that it is thicker. Your taste perception might change. You will experience difficulties in speaking, chewing and swallowing. Because the lubricating effect of saliva is missing that might cause sores, cracks, dry lips and pain. You will be always thirsty, but drinking water won’t help much. The condition will cause problems with your tongue also, where you will feel weird tingling sensations. Your throat and nose will be dry, and that might lead to infections. The whole appearance of the oral cavity will be changed. The surfaces will evidently be dry, shiny and a deeper shade of red. You will notice gum inflammation, dental caries, and bad breath. A burning sensation is also very likely to happen.
What are the problems that a dry mouth can cause?
A dry mouth can cause many problems, some of them even can even have a huge impact on the everyday life. Of course, the problems with teeth and gums are the most noticeable ones, but not the worst ones. People that are affected by xerostomia have a much higher incidence of caries and gum disease. They suffer oral infections much more often than people with normal saliva flow. Yeast infection, or also known as thrush is the most common one. They will also notice sores and cracks, especially located at the angles of the lips. Patients with dentures are the ones that have a lot of trouble dealing with dry mouth. This condition makes it almost impossible for them to wear the dentures. You will not be able to enjoy food like before, you will have a hard time chewing, swallowing and also the sensation will not be the same.
Xerostomia can be caused by diseases and conditions that affect the salivary glands but that happens less often. The most common causes of this condition are certain medication, general medical conditions, aging, smoking,
Tons of medication that are used to cure certain diseases can cause side effects such as xerostomia. Drugs such as antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, bronchodilators, the ones used to cure anxiety, nausea, obesity, pain, psychotic disorders, Parkinson’s disease are the ones that can lead to a dry mouth as a side effect.
Many general medical conditions can affect the salivary glands. Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks the glands in the mouth and eyes. It is a very serious Syndrome and people that have it are really struggling with the symptoms. They have a much higher incidence of tooth decay and gum disease, and the older ones have a hard time with dentures. Other autoimmune diseases that can cause xerostomia are systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension are just a part of the more common diseases that can lead to this condition.
Aging is a perfectly normal process that cannot be stopped. Many older people have trouble with dry mouth. The main reason for this is not just the process of aging but also the many additional factors that are present. Older people very often take many medications because of their health problems.
4. Radiation therapy
Therapy treatments that are used to fight against cancer can affect the salivary glands. Chemotherapy and radiation, especially if they are done in the area of face and neck can reduce the saliva flow. In some cases, the condition will only be temporary, while in others there might be permanent damage. It all depends on the doses of radiation used in the treatment.
Other causes of dry mouth include smoking, nerve damage, conditions that cause dehydration, drugs, and alcohol abuse.
The treatment of xerostomia depends on the cause. If you experience any of these symptoms you should visit your dentist. He will determine the cause and help you treat the condition. If you’ve been taking medication that is causing a reduced saliva flow, then there is an option to change them with another type or reduce the dose. To lessen the symptoms dentists usually prescribe special products that act like an artificial saliva, or even medication that stimulate the salivary glands.