Are you suffering from a parched or dry feeling in your mouth? Dry mouth syndrome, also known as xerostomia, is a condition that can become quite severe. But a reduced or absent flow of saliva is often the symptom of an underlying medical problem. Here is what you need to know!
Your saliva is a vital part of your oral health. It’s made of 98 per cent water, the rest is composed of proteins and minerals that help to protect your tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.
- 10 percent of the general population have dry mouth syndrome
The Protective Role of Saliva
A dry mouth bears the risk of tooth decay and a range of other oral diseases. Your saliva keeps your mouth healthy as it’s a major defense mechanism that fights germs in your mouth, neutralising acids produced by bacteria, preventing bad breath and even gum disease.
It’s also a vital part of the digestive process. A healthy body produces between four to eight cups of saliva a day which keeps your mouth healthy by:
- Neutralising acids
- Eliminating the bacteria that cause decay
- Having antifungal properties
- Containing phosphorus and calcium
- Helping you chew, swallow and speak
- Helping keep dentures securely in place
Dry Mouth Symptoms to Look Out For
Dry mouth is not a disease, but the symptom of other issues that can be caused by prescription medications, certain autoimmune diseases and medical treatments. These can cause a persistently dry mouth, including a condition in which your salivary glands simply do not produce enough saliva.
If your salivary glands are not producing enough saliva, you may experience one of the following signs and symptoms:
- Taste disorder, also called Dysgeusia
- A rough and dry or fissured tongue
- Dry and cracked lips
- Difficulty to swallow
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Bad breath
- Mouth ulcers
Dry Mouth Causes And Underlying Diseases
The lack of sufficient saliva can increase your risk for cavities, rapid tooth decay and gum disease. It may cause tissues in your mouth to swell and become inflamed. Since dry mouth is often the symptom of an underlying health condition, the focus should be on diagnosing and treating the cause rather than the dry mouth itself.
Other underlying issues that may cause dry mouth include:
- Dehydration. This is the most common cause as evidently, without sufficient water the body can simply not create a steady stream of saliva.
- Certain medication and drugs. Some drugs and medications are known to cause dry mouth. This includes some antihistamines, antidepressants and appetite suppressants.
- Sjögren’s syndrome. An autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your body's own cells and tissues. One of it’s side effects is dry mouth.
- Excessive mouth breathing.
- Stress and anxiety.
Dry Mouth Treatment Options
Untreated dry mouth can lead to tooth decay, and a range of other health issues. Whilst treating the underlying cause is the recommended treatment path, there are a few things you can do to relieve the symptoms of a dry mouth.
Tips to relieve a dry mouth:
- Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated and sip water regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoid acidic and sugary foods and beverages.
- Chew well. Chew food thoroughly before swallowing.
- Breathe through your nose. Not your mouth - it dries out your mouth.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. These substances can dry out your mouth.
- Quit smoking. Stop all tobacco use if you smoke or chew tobacco.
- Chew sugar-free gum. It can stimulate the flow of saliva.
- Try a mouthwash designed for dry mouth. They may also offer protection against tooth decay. Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
- Avoid over-the-counter antihistamines. Because they can make your symptoms worse.
- Sleep with a room humidifier. Add moisture to the air at night with a room humidifier.
Where to get help
Maintaining good dental hygiene is key to a healthy mouth. If your dry mouth symptoms do continue, don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist or GP. They will be able to test for and diagnose any underlying conditions or change medications that might be causing your dry mouth. Talk to your GP before stopping any medications that may be causing dry mouth.
As pioneers in the dental industry, the Next Smile™ All-on-4® Centre aims to help patients lead a healthy and fulfilling life, by freeing them from the pain and insecurities associated with poor dental health. We’re here to help you rediscover your brightest smile. If you have any further questions about dry mouth and its causes, get in touch with us!