General Dentistry » dry mouth (xerostomia)
Dry mouth, caused by reduction in the flow of saliva, is an extremely common symptom presented by patients. You may experience this temporarily, for example when you are particularly nervous or stressed about something or it can be persistent and a symptom of other health and oral health issues.
What causes dry mouth?
Dry mouth is caused by the salivary glands in your mouth and underneath your tongue not working properly. It tends to get worse as you get older.
It may be a symptom of stress or medication and can therefore be short-term. It can be caused by:
- medications, such as those for high blood pressure, antidepressants and sleeping tablets
- medical treatments such as radiotherapy
- medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjögrens syndrome
- simply not drinking enough water throughout the day
How will dry mouth affect me?
Natural saliva production is essential to your oral health as it is part of the body's natural defence against the build-up of plaque and bacteria in the mouth which may otherwise damage your teeth and gums. Saliva helps to neutralise the plaque acid which causes dental decay.
If you suffer from dry mouth,
- you will probably feel thirsty most of the time
- it will affect your sense of taste
- you may experience difficulty in everyday functions such as talking, eating, swallowing and sleeping
- you may feel a burning sensation in your mouth and develop cracked lips
- it may cause bad breath
With persistent dry mouth you may suffer tooth decay and your gums may become swollen, sore and sometimes may bleed. People with dentures may find them ill-fitting and uncomfortable.
What can I do to help to relieve dry mouth?
Any of the above symptoms can be relieved. It is very important to maintain a healthy mouth and to introduce a method of sustaining moisture.
Firstly, make sure you are drinking enough water - 6 to 8 glasses a day is recommended. Dry mouth may be temporarily relieved by chewing sugar-free gum, or by sucking sugar-free sweets or an ice cube.
Longer term relief can be gained with moisture gels or saliva substitutes. Specialist products will not only relieve your dry mouth feeling but supplement the protective elements in the saliva by releasing enzymes. These specialist products are available as a gum, mouthwash, toothpaste, moisturising gel, and gel mouth spray. Used daily they will help keep your mouth moist, comfortable and healthy.
Talk to your dentist about your symptoms and what can be used to make you more comfortable.