Dry mouth -Xerostomia

December 02, 2008

Is your mouth dry that you find your lipstick sticking on to your teeth ? Are you not able to seal your envelope anymore?

Dry mouth is called Xerostomia, a condition where in you lack enough saliva for your daily needs. It is not only just difficult to live with a dry mouth. It is quite troublesome too as you cannot enjoy your favorite foods and people turn away from you because of your bad breath. Eventually, it becomes a nuisance. Dry mouth is quite common and is found in at least 20% of the population, especially women. Oral dryness is increasingly observed in aging people. Think of a baby drooling lovely with saliva. But as the baby grows up you notice less of drool and saliva. This lack of saliva is slightly on the increase in some adults as they age.

An adult makes 3 pint of saliva which is secreted for various purposes like preventing tooth decay, washing away food and plaque from your teeth and inhibiting bacterial growth. Saliva also serves to repair the early stages of tooth decay with its minerals. It further neutralizes the damaging acids in your mouth and provides enzymes to help digestion of food. Not to mention its role in your ability to enjoy your food. We swallow a lot of saliva involuntarily and we never thought of the awfully tough jobs it did every day. Aging may cause a restrain on the work of your salivary gland leading to the secretion of less saliva.

Once dry mouth occurs, you realize the true value of saliva. Eating, chewing and swallowing becomes difficult. You develop bad breath, tooth decay and cracked mouth tissues and lips. Additionally, you also lose your normal sense of taste.

Certain drugs and medications often cause oral desiccation as a side effect. Most of the OTC drugs used for medical conditions like Arthritis, depression, hypertension, antihistamines etc. can cause dry mouth in some people. Apart from drugs like Ibuprofen, systemic diseases and autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, anxiety disorders and depression also cause oral dryness. Caffeine is also one of the cause for dry mouth.

Preventive care

You can take some additional precautions to prevent dry mouth. If you develop dry mouth due to a drug, as your doctor for an alternative or request for a change in the dosage which may help.

  1. Forget your daily can of Coke.  Soft drinks can significantly contribute to mouth desiccation. As we know, saliva helps to neutralize the acids that enter the mouth. When there is less saliva (due to aging or other factors) the acids in the soft drinks do not get neutralized. Avoid fluids or juices which contain citric or phosphoric acid,if you have dry mouth. Instead, drink a lot of plain water. Sip water every now and then to prevent dryness and to keep the mouth and lips moist.
  2. Eat mushy foods to stimulate saliva. Foods with a lot of juice or sauce would secrete more saliva and would be easy to swallow. You can also chew a sugar-less gum.
  3. To prevent tooth decay, eat less of sugary foods when you have dry mouth. At the same time, suck on a sugar-free candy to increase the production of saliva.
  4. Use less lemon and orange as they are citrus fruits. Do not drink lemonade but you may please yourself with a diluted lemon juice as it can increase your saliva. However, it is best to avoid lemons and spicy foods if you have sore throat or cracked mouth.
  5. Use a fluoride rinse to prevent plaque and dental problems.
  6. A humidifier in the room can save you from dryness in the room. It may help as some people tend to breathe through their mouths.
  7. Quit smoking and drinking.
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