Written by Danica Lacson on September 29, 2018
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth is a condition wherein the mouth becomes excessively dry and unable to produce sufficient amount of saliva. It can cause discomfort, unpleasant breath, and tooth decay as it increases the bacteria inside the mouth. It can also affect swallowing and speech.
What is the purpose of saliva?
- Saliva cleanses and moistens the mouth.
- It contains enzymes that are essential in the process of digestion.
- It inhibits infection by controlling the bacteria inside the mouth.
- It aids the digestion process by helping in the chewing, tasting, and swallowing of food.
- Saliva maintains the pH balance in the mouth by neutralizing the acids inside it.
What happens when you have inadequate saliva?
Aside from dry mouth, when saliva is not adequately produced, the skin inside and surrounding the mouth gets tight and dry. The tongue feels dry and rough. Lips have more tendencies to crack. And sores in the corners of the mouth may be acquired.
What other things should you know about saliva?
Here Are The Other Important Facts About Saliva:
- As you know, a person produces saliva when he or she chews. In point of fact, the harder a person chews, the more saliva he or she produces. However, too much chewing can subject your jaw muscles to stress and lead to jaw pain.
- The salivary glands, which are found at the bottom of the mouth, inside each cheek, and near the front teeth of the jaw bone, produce saliva.
- Saliva moves through tubes referred to as salivary ducts. Take note that there are a total of six major salivary glands and also hundreds of minor salivary glands.
- Typically, a person’s body produces two to four pints of saliva a day. Normally, the body makes the most saliva during the late afternoon of the day. Meanwhile, the body makes the least amount of saliva at nighttime.
Please be guided that everyone is different. Generally, what doctors regard to be a normal amount of saliva differs slightly, making the diagnosis of saliva-related issues somewhat challenging.
What causes dry mouth?
Also referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth is common in older people and brought about by various causes including:
- A side effect of certain medications like prescription and non-prescription drugs for depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, colds, asthma, among others
- A side effect of diseases and infections such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, mumps, anemia, hypertension, Parkinson’s diseases, and others.
- A side effect of a medical treatment which damaged the salivary glands. The damage can stem from radiation to the head and neck, and chemotherapy treatments.
- Nerve damage to the head and neck area from an injury or surgery
- Dehydration or conditions that lead to it like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, etc.
- Surgical removal of the salivary glands
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Breathing with your mouth open
What are the Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth can be detected through observation of its common symptoms which include frequent thirst, dry tongue, sticky and dry feeling in the mouth, sores in the mouth, split the skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, and a dry feeling in the throat.
People suffering from dry mouth can also feel a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, particularly on the tongue. Bad breath and hoarseness, dry nasal passages, and sore throat are also indications that the mouth is dry and saliva production is inadequate.
If unaddressed, xerostomia increases the risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infection like thrush. It can also lead to difficulty in wearing dentures.
How can Dry Mouth be treated?
Fortunately, dry mouth can be treated using simple measures and habits.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will keep your mouth moist. Also, avoid alcoholic, acidic, and caffeinated beverages as they can contribute to the drying of the mouth.
- Chew on sugarless gum. By doing this, saliva production can be stimulated. You can also eat an apple, cheese, and other foods that help in the production of saliva.
- Reduce the consumption of dry and salty foods which can worsen the condition. Opt for moist foods like soups, gravies, and creams.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is generally bad for the health and causes life-threatening diseases for smokers and non-smokers. Quitting the bad habit or at the least, minimizing it will be better for the oral and general health as tobacco use causes dry mouth.
- Observe proper oral hygiene. Nothing beats brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash in fighting dry mouth. Also, proper oral hygiene decreases the risks posed by the condition.
- Visit your dentist. Since the dry mouth is brought about by various causes, knowing the root cause of the condition is vital in addressing it. Consulting your dentist on the right treatment for dry mouth may give you more options to address the issue. Visiting your dentist at least twice a year is also important in keeping oral health in check and prevent conditions like dry mouth from happening.
Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.