Having a dry mouth occasionally or once in a while is a common phenomenon. But it is a matter of concern if an individual experiences a continuous dryness in the mouth. Dry mouth could be due to a variety of reasons and isn't necessarily associated with malfunctioning of salivary glands.
What Is Xerostomia?
Xerostomia is defined as dry mouth due to reduced salivary production in the mouth. It is a condition when the mouth fails to produce sufficient saliva so as to keep the mouth wet which leaves the mouth dry and parched. Xerostomia can also cause other symptoms like dry and cracked lips, mouth cankers, and bad breath (halitosis).
Saliva, also known as spit is a watery fluid in the mouth produced by the salivary glands. Saliva has a cleansing effect in the mouth and it helps in the easy swallowing of food. It also has a lubricating and antibacterial effect in the mouth and aids in maintaining oral health by protecting the mouth from dental caries and gum diseases. Dry mouth is not a condition itself but a symptom of an underlying medical condition that could require medical treatment.
What Causes Xerostomia?
There are a plethora of reasons that could cause dry mouth in an individual.
The following are possible causes of dry mouth -
Dehydration- An individual experiences dehydration when there is an absence of sufficient amounts of water in the body. It happens when the loss of water is more than the intake of water by the body. Dehydration can occur due to diarrhea, vomiting, or blood loss. In this case, there isn't enough saliva production which may cause the mouth to feel dry.
Medicines and Drugs- One of the primary etiologies of dry mouth is medicines, where medication-induced xerostomia is seen as a side effect of certain medications. Medicines that are known to cause dry mouth in individuals are-
1) Antidepressants, antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs
4) Antihypertensive drugs
5) Antiasthma drugs
7) Diuretics and bladder control medications
8) Chemotherapy drugs
Radiation Therapy- A common side effect of head and neck radiation therapy is reduced salivary flow because radiation damages the salivary glands.
Mouth breathing and snoring- Breathing through the mouth or snoring with an open mouth causes evaporation of saliva which causes dry mouth.
Anxiety and Stress- Anxiety and stress, activate the stress response in an individual and release the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Increase in the stress hormone in the body suppresses salivary secretion to help with digestion suppression.
Medical Conditions- Xerostomia can also be caused by a variety of medical conditions that include
- Diabetes type 1 and type 2
- Oral thrush
- Cystic fibrosis
- Autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's syndrome, HIV/AIDS, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Alzheimer's disease
Age-related- As people age, with time they suffer from dry mouth. Age-related xerostomia could pertain to a combination of reasons like adverse effects of certain medications, chronic diseases like autoimmune disorders, or inadequate nutrition.
What Are The Symptoms of Xerostomia?
Some common symptoms encountered with xerostomia include-
dry and cracked lips
dry, fissured, and grooved tongue
mouth sores and cankers
sore throat and hoarseness
a feeling of thickened saliva
bad breath (halitosis)
burning sensation in the mouth
difficulty in chewing, swallowing and talking
altered taste sensation
tooth decay, and gum diseases
recurring mouth infections
How To Manage Xerostomia?
- Home remedies
In case of temporary dry mouth, it can be treated at home with the help of home remedies like-
• drinking small amounts of water throughout the day
• sipping on ice chips and cubes
• chewing on sugarless gums and candies
• avoid consumption of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs as they could make the situation worse
• use of a humidifier in bedrooms during sleeping
- Consulting the doctor or a dentist
In case the condition persists for a long time, one should consult a doctor. A doctor or dentist would be able to identify the underlying cause by reviewing the prescribed medications or checking for any underlying medical conditions. The dentist or specialist could also prescribe artificial saliva substitutes to help keep the mouth moist. These artificial substitutes come in the form of gels, sprays, and lozenges. It is also advised by healthcare professionals to maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing.