What is Dry Mouth / Xerostomia
Dry Mouth Syndrome or Xerostomia is a condition where the mouth becomes very dry, because of not having enough saliva to keep it wet. Xerostomia is a result of reduced saliva flow due to decreased secretion from salivary glands.
A dry mouth is a symptom of an underlying problem, rather than a disease in itself. About 10 per cent of the general population and 25 per cent of older people have dry mouth syndrome.
Waking Up with Dry Mouth • When it is a problem?
Waking up with dry mouth is usual, especially among the elderly. But if you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it is not only uncomfortable due to difficulty in speaking and eating, but it can also lead to more serious health problems due to loss of the protective effects of saliva.
Temporary mouth dryness is not worrying. Most people have experienced the temporary sensation of xerostomia from time to time especially when they are nervous or anxious. Dry mouth becomes a problem when it becomes a chronic condition affecting the patient's normal mouth function.
Health risks caused by Xerostomia
- Saliva helps chewing, swallowing and digesting food.
- Saliva also protects teeth from tooth decay by diluting and washing away the food residuals, sugars and the acids produced by bacteria.
- Reduced saliva flow results in lower (acidic) pH levels in the mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and oral infections.
- It can lead to dryness, a burning or sore feeling in the mouth or throat, bad or metallic or reduced taste, dentures becoming loose and causing sore areas, difficulty in chewing, swallowing and speaking.
Dry Mouth symptoms
The first symptoms of dry mouth usually appear when waking up at night or in the morning. Some common symptoms associated with cases of xerostomia are :
- A sticky, dry feeling in your mouth and tongue
- Cracked lips
- Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, tasting, or talking.
- Mouth sores
- Frequent bad breath
- Dentures that do not fit comfortably.
- Sore throat.
Causes of Dry Mouth - Xerostomia
There are several reasons that might cause a consistent dry mouth problem.
- Smoking is one of the top causes of dry mouth. Many heavy smokers experience dry mouth symptoms.
- Dry mouth can be a side effect of prescription drugs and medicines, that reduces the flow of saliva. Studies show that up to 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications can contribute to symptoms of dry mouth. Drugs used to control high blood pressure, parkinson disease, anti-anxiety agents, anti-depressants, antihistamines, decongestants and pain killers are some of the drugs causing xerostomia.
- Conditions that lead to dehydration, such as fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea can cause temporary dry mouth.
- Some systemic diseases and conditions that affect the salivary glands cause dry mouth syndrome. (diabetes, Hodgkin's, Parkinson's disease, HIV/AIDS and Sjogren's syndrome are usual causes of xerostomia symptoms)
- Cancer treatment (Radiation therapy and chemotherapy) can damage the salivary glands reducing or even stopping the saliva flow.
Dry Mouth Remedies and Treatments
Depending on the causes of dry mouth, your health care provider can recommend the appropriate dry mouth treatment. Xerostomia could be caused as a symptom of a number of systemic diseases that you might not be aware of. If you are experiencing any dry mouth symptoms, visit your physician or dentist to determine what is causing the condition and recommend the proper xerostomia remedy.
Natural Dry Mouth Remedies
If there is no permanent organic problem that causes the dry mouth, you could try first the following dry mouth home remedies that can provide a natural cure to the problem:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, is the simplest dry mouth remedy that helps to ease xerostomia problems.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and some sodas, which can cause the mouth to dry out.
- Don't use tobacco or alcohol, which dry out the mouth
- Some people find that chewing sugarless chewing gum stimulates saliva flow.
- Use of a humidifier in the bedroom reduces nightime oral dryness and helps in not waking up with dry mouth.
- Some herbs and herbal preparations are recommended as a dry mouth remedy. Chinese green tea, chamomile and ginger are known to be particularly effective. Herbal blends are available from alternative medicine suppliers.
- If your dry mouth is the result of medication, your doctor might change your prescription or dosage. Talk to your doctor, if you have dry mouth symptoms, about possibly changing the drugs causing xerostomia with others with less side-effects.
Over the Counter Dry Mouth Treatments
If the natural dry mouth remedies do not ease the xerostomia symptoms, you could try other treatments including some over the counter products :
- Moisturizing gels and toothpastes are widely used as a dry mouth remedy to provide a temporary relief.
- Rinsing with mouthwashes specially formulated to help dry mouth may also help. Avoid mouth rinses or mouthwashes that contain alcohol or peroxide, as these ingredients will further dry out your mouth.
Medical Dry Mouth Treatments
If there is a permanent damage of the salivary glands and the causes of dry mouth cannot be eliminated, the above treatments may not help enough. In this case :
- If your salivary glands are not working properly but still produce some saliva, your doctor might give you a prescription medicine that helps the glands work better.
- Doctors can prescribe mouth moisturizers, such as artificial saliva substitute which comes as a spray to help moisten the mouth and relieve dry mouth symptoms. There are many saliva substitutes on the market, generally available through pharmacy outlets, which are highly effective in reducing the unpleasant side effects of reduced flow of saliva.
Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay
Saliva is important for the protection of your teeth against tooth decay, regulating the mouth's pH value and diluting the acids produced by the dental plaque bacteria. Patienst suffering from xerostomia are in greater risk of tooth decay.
In some severe cases of xerostomia, when the patient's teeth are very susceptible to decay, dentists suggest the use of dental sealants in order to prevent tooth decay, along with using dry mouth remedies. Dry mouth can cause extensive tooth decay (even in a person with a healthy mouth for years), and it contributes to many other oral health problems.
If you keep waking up with dry mouth or experience xerostomia symptoms too often during the day, take extra care with your daily oral hygiene to reduce the risk of cavities and periodontal disease. Seek the advice of a dentist on dry mouth remedies as soon as persistent dry mouth symptoms appear.
The cost involved with dental treatments can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to yourself and your family.