Are you experiencing dryness in your mouth and don’t know what to do? Well, you are not alone. This condition of dry mouth, also medically known as xerostomia, is common among people. Every person has experienced dry mouth sometime, especially when they are upset, nervous, or stressed. But for a lot of people, this issue continues for a long time. If you are someone who falls under the second category, you are at the right place. This article will help you understand this condition in a better way.
What Is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is when your mouth doesn’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Saliva does more than just keeping your mouth moist. It helps to prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by harmful bacteria, limits the bacterial growth, and washes away food particles in your mouth. It enhances the taste of food, makes it easier to chew and swallow, and produces enzymes to aid digestion. When there is a decrease of saliva in the mouth, you can imagine the major impact on your dental health and health in general as well. If your mouth is always dry no matter how many times you drink something, you must be having some serious health issues and you need to address this condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
When there is a decrease in the saliva levels, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
- A dry and rough tongue
- Thick and stringy saliva
- Sticking of the tongue against the roof of your mouth
- Dry or grooved throat
- Changing taste sense
- Chewing or swallowing problems
- Mouth ulcers
- Bad breath
- Dry and cracked lips
- Possible oral thrush infections
- High rate of tooth decay
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Problems wearing dentures
- Dry and itchy eyes
- Reduced sense of smell
How Is Dry Mouth Caused?
There are several reasons for the salivary glands to reduce producing saliva. These include:
Side effects of medications – There are many medications that can cause dry mouth. Drugs that are used to treat depression, pain, allergies, cold, acne, obesity, hypertension, diarrhea, nausea, urinary incontinence, asthma, and Parkinson’s disease also contribute to dry mouth.
Disease – Diseases that affect the salivary gland such as HIV infection, Sarcoidosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s, burning mouth syndrome, diabetes, diarrhea, stroke, anemia, cystic fibrosis, and mumps.
Nerve damage – Any damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery can result in nerve damage, affecting the salivary gland.
Dehydration – Dehydration from fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and blood loss cause dry mouth.
Menopause – Changing hormonal levels can affect the salivary glands. It causes a persistent feeling of dry mouth, especially in menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Smoking – If you smoke a pipe, cigars, or heavy cigarettes you may experience dry mouth as these contain addictive substances that cut down the salivary flow and destroy cavity-fighting antibodies. These antibodies aggravate salivary glands.
Alcohol – Drinking alcohol can dehydrate you. Gargling with an alcohol-based mouthwash can affect your oral tissues leaving them dry and irritated.
Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy and drugs used during that period often change the nature and the amount of saliva produced. Though it is a temporary process, your salivary flow will be back to normal once the treatment is over.
Radiation therapy – Radiation treatments to your head and neck can damage salivary glands, causing a marked decrease in saliva production.
What Are the Consequences of Untreated Dry Mouth?
Cavities: Saliva in your mouth starts the process of digestion and keeps food particles off your teeth. Without this natural defense, bacteria and plaque can quickly build up at the base of your teeth, along the gum line. This may further lead to tooth decay and gum disease. When saliva isn’t flushing your mouth of food particles and debris regularly, you may get bad breath and cavities.
Cavities are holes in your teeth that are formed by bacteria excreting acids onto your teeth. These acids eat away the enamel, hence entering the dentin and causing cavities. We suggest you to visit your dentist to address the issue.
Imbalanced oral microbiome: Not all bacteria in your mouth are bad. When the bacteria in your mouth are balanced, they promote healing, remineralization, and an overall happy mouth. When the oral microbiome is disrupted by dry mouth, there is a decrease in the number of beneficial bacteria and increase in the risk of infection, cavities, and oral yeast infection.
Mouth sores: With the reduction of saliva levels to neutralize the acids in your mouth and the dehydration of delicate oral tissues, you may get painful mouth sores. Mouth sores need to be addressed by the dentist for further examination.
Digestive issues: We all know that the process of digestion starts from your mouth. This is something that your dentist might have also said a few times. If your gut does not get the adequate amount of saliva to break down the food into small pieces, you can have an excess of bad bacteria in your mouth. This affects the balance of the bacteria in your mouth.
What Are the Possible Home Remedies for Dry Mouth?
If you are already experiencing the condition of dry mouth, follow these tips to relieve and protect your teeth from any dental damage.
- Sip water or sugarless drinks often.
- Brush and floss twice a day.
- Avoid dry, hard, sticky, and difficult-to-masticate foods.
- Avoid, or at least reduce the consumption of alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.
- Change the medications or consult the doctor to alter the prescription.
- Avoid products like mouthwash or gels that contain alcohol.
- Chew sugarless gums or candy to stimulate saliva production and flow.
- Avoid overly salty foods.
Irrespective of the cause, dry mouth can contribute to your oral problems mentioned above. If you are experiencing a mild or painful discomfort, we suggest you talk to your dentist and schedule your dental exams and cleaning session.