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When a person does not produce enough saliva to keep their mouth wet, they suffer from a condition called xerostomia. This affliction can cause difficulties when talking, swallowing, chewing and tasting food.
Xerostomia can affect dentures’ stability. Chronic dry mouth creates the perfect environment for dental decay and oral infections. It can be symptomatic of certain diseases or conditions, or the side effect of medication.
Symptoms of xerostomia
If you suffer from dry mouth, you may have one more of these symptoms:
- feeling of dryness, stickiness or burning in the mouth;
- chapped lips;
- dry tongue or feeling of dryness in the throat;
- difficulty tasting, chewing, swallowing or even talking;
- wounds in or around the mouth.
Causes of dry mouth
- Diseases: Sjörgen’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, hepatitis C and Parkinson’s disease.
- Medication: over 400 prescribed or over-the-counter medication indicate dry mouth as a side effect.
- Radiotherapy: exposure to radiation can cause permanent damage to salivary glands.
- Chemotherapy: can reduce the flow and composition of saliva.
- Stress, anxiety, depression or nutritional deficiency.
The importance of saliva
Saliva humidifies the mucous membrane inside the mouth to facilitate mastication and elocution. It also factors in the enjoyment of eating by contributing to the tasting process.
Saliva’s function goes beyond keeping the mouth wet. It prevents dental decay by restricting bacteria’s growth and washing away food remnants and accumulation of dental plaque. Moreover, it has a buffer capacity that balances pH after every meal. Saliva also carries enzymes that begin the digestive process: they lubricate food for easier deglutition.
Treating dry mouth
Treatment of dry mouth depends on the cause. If you think you are suffering from xerostomia, talk to our dental team to help you identify its origin. If your affliction if caused by medication, your doctor can adjust the dosage or modify your prescription.
In cases when the salivary glands are not properly working, your doctor must first make sure that it is not the symptom of another illness to then prescribe medicine that will help control the problem.
To soothe discomfort or help prevent dental decay caused by dry mouth:
- Drink a lot of water during meals and throughout the day. Keep a glass of water close to the bed at night;
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day or more, depending on your dentist’s advice;
- Floss daily;
- Use toothpaste with fluoride;
- Reduce your consumption of caffeinated and sugary beverages;
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candy to stimulate your salivary glands;
- Keep away from tobacco and alcohol;
- Avoid spicy, sugary or salty food;
- Talk to your dentist about artificial saliva solutions.
If you are suffering from dry mouth, you must visit your dentist frequently. Book an appointment for a cleaning or preventive cavity treatment at least twice a year or more, if necessary.