Dry Mouth or Xerostomia is an extremely common symptom presented by patients. It is a condition that may have long or short-term effects on you. Having a dry mouth can cause many general as well as oral health problems.
It is caused by the salivary glands in your mouth not working in the way they should normally. Dry mouth may be a symptom of stress or medication and can therefore be short-term. Smoking can also cause dry mouth. In the long-term a dry mouth may be irreversible caused by medical treatments such as radiotherapy or by a medical condition such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and non-prescription drugs, including drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds (antihistamines and decongestants), obesity, acne, epilepsy, hypertension (diuretics), diarrhoea, nausea, psychotic disorders, urinary incontinence, asthma and Parkinson’s disease. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of muscle relaxants and sedatives.
It can have a dramatic effect upon a patient. You will experience difficulty in every day functions such as talking, eating, swallowing and sleeping. If you are a denture wearer you may find it uncomfortable, and find that it does not fit very well. You will probably feel thirsty most of the time and dry mouth will affect your sense of taste. You may also feel a burning sensation in your mouth and develop cracked lips. Natural saliva production is essential to your oral health as it washes away debris and plaque which cause tooth decay and your gums may be swollen, sore and sometimes they may bleed. Dry mouth can also cause bad breath.
How to diagnose Dry Mouth?
Everyone’s mouth feels dry from time to time. It’s when this feeling doesn’t go away that you may have a problem with saliva production. Symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A sticky, dry feeling in your mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- A burning sensation on your tongue
- A dry feeling in your throat
- Cracked lips
- Reduced ability to taste things or a metallic taste in your mouth
- Mouth sores
- Frequent bad breath
- Difficulty chewing/speaking
What can I do?
The only permanent way to cure dry mouth is to treat its cause. If it is the result of medication, your doctor might change your prescription or your dosage. If your salivary glands are not working properly but still produce some saliva, your doctor might give you a medicine that helps the glands work better.
If the cause of your dry mouth cannot be eliminated, or until it can be, you can restore moisture to your mouth a number of different ways. We may recommend mouth moisturisers, such as a saliva substitute. Rinsing with mouthwashes specially formulated to help dry mouth may also bring relief. You can also:
- Drink plenty of water regularly every day
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and some sodas, which can cause the mouth to dry out
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless boiled sweets to stimulate saliva flow (if some salivary gland function exists)
- Don’t use tobacco or alcohol, which dry out the mouth
- Be aware that spicy or salty foods can cause pain in a dry mouth
- Use a room vaporizer( humidifier ) to add moisture to the bedroom air at night
- Use an artificial saliva substitute
Dry mouth syndrome and Caries (tooth decay);
Poor oral hygiene and a sugary diet tend to cause tooth decay in the biting surfaces and in between the teeth. However, dry mouth syndrome causes a different pattern of caries. The decay is more likely to start along the gum line and, in some cases, the gum draws back to expose the underlying dentine. Unlike enamel, dentine offers less resistance to acids and decay tends to be rapid. Decay of the exposed dentine is called ‘root caries’.
How Do we Diagnosis the Dry mouth syndrome?
Identification of this syndrome will include:
Physical examination – the inner cheeks appear dry and rough, rather than moist and shiny.
Tooth examination – full dental examination to check the pattern of tooth decay.
Saliva tests – A typical saliva test involves rolling out the lower lip and patting it dry. Normally, saliva should re-moisten the lower lip within half a minute or so.
Medical history – we check for medical conditions or drugs that could be drying out your mouth