Is Xerostomia Making Your Life Uncomfortable?

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Does your mouth feel constantly dry? If it does, then you may have xerostomia – also known as dry mouth.

What is dry mouth? Simply, a lack of saliva. You need saliva to keep your mouth moist, to cleanse it, and to digest food. In addition, your saliva controls bacteria and fungi which prevents infections in your mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, you are at a higher risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush. Dry mouth can also make it hard to wear dentures.

Dry Mouth Causes

Medications. One of the leading causes of dry mouth are certain types of prescription and nonprescription drugs. Among the main culprits are drugs used to treat pain, depression, allergies, anxiety, obesity, colds, epilepsy, acne, diarrhea, hypertension, nausea, asthma, urinary incontinence, psychotic disorders and Parkinson's disease. Muscle relaxants and sedatives can also produce dry mouth.

The side effects of certain diseases and infections. Dry mouth can be a side effect of certain medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, mumps, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, Parkinson's disease, hypertension, stroke, anemia and diabetes.

The side effects of some medical treatments. If the salivary glands are damaged, it can reduce the amount of saliva that you produce. Cancer treatments that involve radiation to the neck and head or chemotherapy can cut down on the amount of saliva produced.

Nerve damage. An injury or surgery in the head or neck can create nerve damage that causes dry mouth.

Dehydration. If you become dehydrated because of excessive sweating, fever, vomiting, blood loss, diarrhea and burns, these can lead to dry mouth.

Removal of the salivary glands through surgery.

Your lifestyle. If you smoke or chew tobacco, the amount of saliva you produce can be affected and this can aggravate dry mouth. If you regularly breath with your mouth open you may also experience dry mouth.

Dry Mouth Symptoms

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • Frequent thirst
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • Bad breath
  • A dry, red, raw tongue
  • Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
  • Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat
  • Problems speaking or trouble tasting, chewing, and swallowing

Dry Mouth Treatment

If you are taking a medication that may be causing your dry mouth, talk to your dentist about the problem. He may suggest that you talk to your medical doctor about adjusting the dosage you take or switching to a different drug that doesn't cause dry mouth.

Another option is to use an oral rinse such as Biotene to restore the moisture in your mouth. You might also consider Salagen, which is a medication that increases saliva production.

Additional steps you can try that can help improve saliva production include:

  • Try sucking on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
  • Drink lots of water to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse, and visit your dentist regularly.
  • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible.
  • Use a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air.
  • Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.

SOURCE: WebMD