What is dry mouth?
Have you ever experience a dry mouth? Yes, I believe everyone has dry mouth once in awhile, but if you have dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable and lead to more serious health problems or indicate that a more serious medical condition may exist.
Basically dry mouth is the feeling when there is lack of saliva in your mouth. A person’s average daily saliva flow rate should be between 0.5-1.5 liters per day. Why is saliva so important to us? Saliva is necessary for:
- Lubricating the mouth and teeth.
- Tasting, chewing and swallowing.
- Neutralizing acids in the mouth.
- Remineralizing teeth to help prevent caries.
- Protection against infection.
What causes dry mouth?
There are many causes of dry mouth. Some of the more familiar causes include:
- Side effect of certain medications (eg: medicines for high blood pressure and depression, antihistamines , diuretics, decongestants etc)
- Certain health conditions that affect the salivary glands (eg: diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, Parkinsonetc)
- Side effect after chemotherapy and head and neck radiotherapy.
- Heavy use of tobacco and alcohol.
Signs and symptoms of dry mouth:
Without proper salivary flow, you may experience the following:
- Dryness in the mouth, thick and stringy saliva.
- Dry, cracked lips.
- Bad breath.
- Difficulty in speaking, chewing and swallowing.
- An altered sense of taste.
- Sore throat.
- Painful tongue with inflammation or ulcers.
Why is dry mouth a problem?
Apart from the signs and symptoms mentioned above, dry mouth can cause further damage to our health and also affect one’s quality of life. Below are few consequences of dry mouth:
- High risk of tooth decay.
- High risk to develop gum disease.
- High risk for infection.
- Loss of retention for denture wearer.
- Indication of a more serious health condition (eg: diabetes)
Management of dry mouth:
The only permanent way to cure dry mouth is to treat its cause. Management of dry mouth should begin with identification and management of the underlying cause. However before you are able to rule out the cause, you can restore moisture to your mouth in a number of different ways to prevent its complications. For examples:
- Sip water or sugarless drinks throughout the day.
- Chew xylitol gum or sugar-free hard candies to stimulate saliva flow.
- Remove dentures when sleeping.
- Use alcohol-free mouthwashes because alcohol can worsen the dry mouth.
- Breathe through the nose, not the mouth.
- Avoid beverages such as soft drinks, juice or sports drinks, sugary or acidic foods because they can contribute to tooth decay.
- Do not consume spicy or salty foods as they can cause pain in a dry mouth.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can cause the mouth to dry out.
Do not use tobacco products.