DRYMOUTH / XEROSTOMIA
Xerostomia ( Dry Mouth )
Do you feel you have less saliva than you've had in the past?
Does your mouth feel dry at mealtime? Do you have trouble eating
dry foods? Is swallowing difficult? Do you need to moisten your
mouth often or sip liquids often?
If you answer yes, you are one of many people who suffer from
xerostomia ( "zero-stoh'-me-a).
Even though xerostomia is not a disease, it can be a symptom of
certain diseases. Xerostomia can result from medical treatment
or as a side effect of many medications. Many times xerostomia
is caused by failure of the salivary glands to function
normally, but the sensation can also occur in people with normal
Xerostomia can cause health problems by affecting nutrition as
well as psychological health. It can contribute to and increase
the chances of contracting tooth decay and mouth infections.
Saliva has important functions. Everyone needs saliva to:
Wash away food debris and plaque from the teeth to help prevent
Limit the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and
other mouth infections.
Bathe the teeth and supply minerals that allow
remineralization of early cavities.
Lubricate foods so they may be swallowed more easily.
Providing enzymes that aid in digestion.
Help us enjoy foods by aiding in the "tasting" process.
Moisten the skin inside the mouth to make chewing and
Xerostomia can be caused by:
Medications - Several hundred current medications can
cause xerostomia. The major drug groups are antihypertensives
and antidepressants. Analgesics, tranquilizers, diuretics, and
antihistamines can also cause dry mouth.
Cancer Therapy - Chemotherapeutic drugs can change the
flow and composition of the saliva. Radiation treatment that is
focused on or near the salivary gland can temporarily or
permanently damage the salivary glands.
Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease, causes
xerostomia and dry eyes.
Other conditions such as bone marrow transplants,
endocrine disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, and
nutritional deficiencies may cause xerostomia.
Nerve Damage - Trauma to the head and neck area from
surgery or wounds can damage the nerves that supply sensation to
the mouth. While the salivary glands may be left intact, they
cannot function normally without the nerves that signal them to
Conditions like Alzheimer's disease or stroke may change
the ability to perceive oral sensations.
If you suspect you have xerostomia, I would recommend you visit
your dentist or physician to determine the cause. If you know
the cause, relief may be found from several sources. Saliva
substitutes are available to moisten and lubricate the mouth.
Sugarless hard candies may be helpful in stimulating saliva
flow. Medications may be added, changed, or dosages altered to
provide increased salivary flow.
Dr. Prasanth Pillai K.S., BDS,MDS-OMFS.