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What Is Xerostomia?

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a reduction in salivary flow or production. It is a common complaint heard by dental professionals, especially from the aging population, but people of any age can experience it.

image of dry cracked land

Causes of Xerostomia:

Medications– this is the most frequent cause of dry mouth. Accordingly, many medications list dry mouth as a possible side effect and use of multiple medications of course further increase the risk of developing it.

Sjorgen’s syndrome– an auto-immune disorder which affects moisture-producing glands of the body, resulting in dry mouth and dry eyes.

Chemotherapy– cancer treatment that can cause acute toxicity affecting salivary glands, but usually resolves after treatment ends.
Radiation treatment to head and neck- cancer treatment that can cause acute toxicity affecting salivary glands but may result in permanent tissue damage.

Hormonal changes– some women experience dry mouth during pregnancy or menopause.

Lifestyle factors– smoking, alcohol use, marijuana use, uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure may result in dry mouth.

Aging– although not a normal part of aging, dry mouth is more often experienced by the aging population. This is because of increased risk of developing age-related health conditions and increased likelihood of taking multiple medications.

image of woman unhappy with food taste

Managing Xerostomia

A visit to a health care provider is a good starting point. This can help to identify any health conditions that could be leading to dry mouth. Modifying any lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol or illicit drug use may be considered.

There are saliva substitute products on the market that help to keep tissues moisturized and can reduce discomfort. Sprays, gels, lozenges, mouthrinses, and toothpaste are available for those with dry mouth.

Having excellent oral hygiene can help prevent oral issues that are common with dry mouth. Brushing and flossing thoroughly every day will remove bacteria that can cause cavities and bad breath. Using products containing fluoride can help to protect against tooth decay.

Use of sugar-free gum or mints may help stimulate saliva production.

Making sure to drink enough water and sip it throughout the day will provide relief of dry mouth. Sauces and gravies added to food can help individuals to swallow comfortably.

Regular dental visits are very important for those suffering from dry mouth. Early identification and treatment of any dental issues will be more cost-effective and help avoid larger problems in the future.

If you are suffering from dry mouth, talk to your healthcare provider and dental professional to discuss your options.

image of a dental mirror in the mouth