Do you ever get the feeling in your mouth when it’s hard to swallow?
It’s probably from the syndrome called dry mouth.
There are multiple reasons as to why it happens, as well as remedies for a dry mouth.
What is Dry Mouth?
Saliva is essential in digestion, bacteria cleansing, and keeping the mouth moist. Shortage in saliva production makes your mouth dry and gummy.
This usually occurs when a person is under stress, is nervous or tense, or when exposed to environmental factors. If the experience is extended for a long period, it becomes pretty uncomfortable.
So what exactly is dry mouth?
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is any condition associated with the unusual dryness of the mouth. The associated concern of having dry mouth can range from being merely a nuisance to something that unfavorably affects a person’s systemic and oral health, not to mention its negative repercussion on appetite.
Dry mouth causes the tongue, gums, and other soft oral tissues to swell and become uncomfortable. As the production of the mouth’s natural cleansing agent diminishes, bacteria and germ multiplication further increases, thereby causing bad breath, altered sense of taste, increased likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease, and could even affect nutrition.
Generally speaking, the syndrome occurs as a side-effect of a medication that results in the decreased saliva production in the mouth.
Saliva is an important component of a healthy body. The liquid is generally made of water and other substances and enzymes necessary for digestion and keeping the teeth strong.
Saliva functions for the following purposes:
- Aids in chewing, swallowing, and tasting
- Keeps the mouth comfortably moist
- Contains minerals and proteins that defend the tooth enamel from gum disease and tooth decay
- Prevents bad breath
- Helps secure dentures into position
Aside from being a common side effect of certain medications, dry mouth is triggered by other reasons.
- Aging. The aging process, per se, doesn’t directly cause dry mouth. The likelihood of taking dry mouth-inducing medications increases with older people. They are also more vulnerable to oral health problems that can result to dry mouth.
- Lifestyle. Tobacco use, either smoked or chewed, affects the production of saliva, and it worsens any existing dry mouth condition.
- Side effect of some infections and diseases. There are certain medical conditions that tend to dry the mouth. These are hypertension, mumps, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis, and anemia.
- Nerve damage. Dry mouth can be caused by a damage to a head or neck nerve as a result of surgery or injury.
- Side effect of a medical treatment. Medical procedures such as chemotherapy and radiation to the neck and head can cause damage to the salivary glands, potentially lessening saliva production.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
If your salivary glands do not provide enough lubrication fluid, you may notice all or most of these signs:
- Unusual dryness in the throat or mouth
- Halitosis or bad breath
- Difficulty in speaking, chewing, and swallowing
- Saliva that seems too viscous and thick
- More recurrence of tooth decay
- Change in taste sensation
- Dentures not properly fitting
- Gum irritation
Complications of Dry Mouth
If not taken care of, dry mouth has its corresponding negative long-term effects.
- Cracked lips
- Oral fungal infection
- Increased plaque, dental caries, and gum disease
- Poor nutrition as a result of swallowing and chewing difficulty
- Coated tongue
- Pasty tongue
- Split skin or sores at the corners of the mouth
Diagnosis and Treatment
To verify if you have dry mouth, your dentist or doctor will thoroughly review your medical history, including all your medications, and make a comprehensive examination of your mouth.
To identify the main source of the problem, you may need to undergo imaging scans of your salivary glands, blood testing, or laboratory exams that gauge the amount of saliva you produce.
If your dry mouth is caused by certain medications, your doctor may prescribe another drug or adjust the dosage of the one you are currently taking. A specially formulated mouth rinse may also be prescribed by your dentist to moisten the mouth. You can also buy an over-the-counter artificial saliva alternative.
Some of the natural remedies for dry mouth are:
- Keeping the mouth moist by drinking plenty of water
- As much as possible, breath through your nose, not your mouth.
- To stimulate saliva secretion, chew a sugar-free gum or suck a sugar free candy or ice.
- Sticking to your routine dental schedules, and using a fluoride rinse, paste, or moisturizing gel.
- To add or increase the moisture of your room, use a room vaporizer.
- Avoid or quit tobacco use.
Advancement in technology has paved way for promising new treatments for dry mouth. Scientists are testing for means to fix a damaged salivary gland and are experimenting with the possibility of implanting an artificial salivary gland in the body not only to address xerostomia, but also to facilitate the saliva needs of patients with critical health problems like throat cancer.
While these scientific solutions are still on its development stage, there’s always something that you can do to alleviate your dry mouth. All it takes is diet and lifestyle modification, proper oral hygiene, and a visit to your doctor or dentist.