Xerostomia (aka chronic dry mouth) is a serious chronic condition in which a person produces a below average amount of saliva. It is not a temporary loss of saliva such as when you’re about to deliver a speech in front of a large crowd. Symptoms of “stage fright” are a normal result of the body’s response to stress and dissipate when that stress is removed. Patients that suffer with chronic Xerostomia fight a daily battle soreness in the mouth, stickiness to the touch and cracking at the corners of the mouth, a red and parched mouth or pebbled look to the tongue, difficulty eating dry or spicy foods, foods not tasting like they used to, difficulty speaking, tendency to wake up more during the night, and bad breath.
Proper volume and production of saliva often commands an underestimated level of importance in the mind of most patients. Even a small drop in production can yield disastrous consequences for a patient’s oral condition. Why is saliva so important? It provides lubrication of the oral tissues to aid in chewing/swallowing. It acts as a medium that carries important enzymes which begin the digestion process. It prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi. Remember acid vs. base chemistry from high school? Saliva is a basic solution and buffers the pH of the mouth to prevent cavities caused by acid producing bacteria.
As we enter our “golden years,” many people experience a slight decrease in saliva production. This does not typically cause major consequences but should be monitored closely by both the patient and dental team. By far the most prevalent extrinsic cause of Xerostomia is medication (both prescription and over-the-counter). OTC cold remedies, decongestants, antihistamines, anti-depressants, some beta-blockers, and diuretics all cause chronic dry mouth. In fact, there are over 400 known medications that decrease salivary flow.
Symptoms of Xerostomia:
- A dry rough tongue
- Mouth sores
- Infection in the mouth
- Frequent thirst
- Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking
- A burning feeling in the mouth
- Dry feeling throat
- Cracked lips
Tips for those suffering from Dry Mouth:
- Gently brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss your teeth every day
- Use prescription toothpaste with high fluoride (like Clinpro5000) to prevent cavities
- Avoid, sticky, sugary foods
- Keep a water bottle close and drink plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
- Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible
- Use a room vaporizer to add humidity to the air
- Use a saliva replacement product such as Biotene
If you would like any further information please visit our website www.OralHealthCareProfessionals.com or contact me directly at the office (630) 963-6750.
Eric G. Jackson, DDS, FAGD, FICOI, FADI