Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies Explained

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Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a well-known yet unacknowledged disease that affects around 22% of the global population .

Dry Mouth

It is characterized by the inability of salivary glands to produce enough saliva to maintain sufficient moistening of the oral cavity. 

Unlike other problems, dry mouth, as well as its complications, changes how you live in different ways. Therefore, this article will assist you in understanding dry mouth, possible causes of the condition, and recommended steps to avoid the problem. 

What is Dry Mouth?

Xerostomia or dry mouth is a condition in which you lose the adequate production of saliva in your mouth. This happens when the glands in the mouth don’t make enough saliva to keep the mouth moist and healthy.

Saliva assists in the chewing of foods and swallowing of the chewed food. Additionally, it protects the teeth from decay, which makes it an essential component of oral health.

Absence or insufficient saliva due to any reason ultimately leads to different oral hygiene problems. Therefore, there is a need to understand this problem before things go out of hand. 

Causes of Dry Mouth 

Dry mouth has many causes. But, most of them can be grouped into four major categories. 

You can experience dry mouth as a side effect of drugs like antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants. Some medical treatments, such as radiation therapy, affect salivary glands and can cause dry mouth. 

Moreover, chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and Sjögren’s syndrome are also notorious for keeping your mouth dry. But, most importantly, in the majority of people, poor lifestyle habits are responsible for this problem. For example, smoking and alcohol consumption hinder the production of saliva. 

Common Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Symptoms of dry mouth vary from person to person. However, a few of the common symptoms include a sticky, dry sensation in the mouth, persistent thirst, and difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking. Some also experience sore throat, dryness, and burning in nasal and oral cavities. 

A dry mouth also gives rise to cracked lips, mouth sores, and an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. You must identify these signs as early as possible. Recognizing the signs will help you get the correct treatment and avoid the worsening of oral health.

Impact of Dry Mouth on Daily Life

Effects of Xerostomia on Oral Health

Effects of Xerostomia on Oral Health

Saliva is responsible for maintaining the natural balance of the oral cavity. It aids in cleaning the mouth of food debris and neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria. Thus, when the saliva you produce is insufficient, your oral cavity becomes vulnerable to cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. 

In addition, the inadequate production of saliva implies that particles of food and bacteria linger in the mouth, leading to oral infections and bad breath. All these risks compel us to do a single most important thing – regularly visit our dentist for checkups

Impact on Overall Well-being and Quality of Life

The effect of dry mouth is not limited to the oral cavity. Instead, it includes the general health and well-being of an individual. Long-term deficiency of saliva can lead to difficulty in eating and speaking, making it an uncomfortable experience. 

You also lose your ability to taste, and the meals become less appealing to you. With a dry mouth, you may no longer enjoy the foods that you have cherished before. This effect leads to changes in your diet, where most of us fall for unhealthy food choices. 

A dry mouth also causes a sore throat and hoarseness that complicates the ability to speak. Since people with hyposalivation have to take sips of water or use saliva substitutes continually, it becomes awkward to manage whenever one is out in public. In its worst form, dry mouth can bring about psychological issues such as stress and worsening quality of life.

Practical Remedies for Dry Mouth

Hydration and its Role in Managing Dry Mouth

A study published by Lee and his colleagues in the Nutrition Research and Practice Journal found that people with dry mouth had lower water intake compared to those without dry mouth. Water keeps everything within our mouth moist and stimulates the production of saliva. Therefore, the first-line strategy would be to drink more water than usual.

Even though water cannot reverse the impacts of dry mouth, it can help a lot. Sipping water also washes off food debris and bacteria from our mouths. This process reduces the risk of cavities and gum disease

Beverages, such as coffee, tea, and alcoholic drinks, are also associated with mouth dryness. Therefore, they should be avoided. Instead, you should opt for healthy food choices like fruits and vegetables, which assist in the production of saliva. The water content in these nutritious foods also keeps your body and, ultimately, your mouth hydrated. 

Oral Hygiene Practices to Alleviate Dry Mouth Symptoms

Steps to maintain oral hygiene are also important to overcome symptoms of dry mouth. Cavities and gum diseases can be prevented by brushing a minimum of twice daily with fluoride-containing toothpaste. A mouthwash designed for dry mouth will not only rinse your mouth but also improve the moisture. 

How To Brush Your Teeth

Daily flossing is also very effective in removing food particles and raw foods that cause damage to teeth health. Finally, using sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candies can increase saliva flow and help, though only for a short duration.

Over the Counter Products for Dry Mouth Relief

Many non-prescription remedies can be used to address the symptoms of dry mouth. Artificial saliva products such as sprays, rinses, and gels can be used to gain short-term relief from dry mouth. These products mimic the characteristics of natural saliva and can be used at any time of the day when necessary. 

Saliva alternatives are helpful to any group of people who suffer from extreme dryness of the mouth, also called xerostomia. Dental rinses and toothpaste for dry mouth are also available. However, you should choose items that do not contain alcohol and other drying agents, as they make the problem even worse.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Dry Mouth

Dietary Adjustments: Soft and juicy fruits like cucumber, watermelon, and celery can help to moisten the mouth. On the other hand, you should avoid dry, salty, and spicy foods, which can make the condition even worse. 

Habits and Behaviors: Tobacco products and smoking are among the major causes of dry mouth, gum diseases, and tooth decay. Alcoholism also causes a decrease in saliva production and worsening of xerostomia. Therefore, these habits and behaviors should be avoided for better oral health. 

Stress Management as a Treatment for Dry Mouth: Stress is a factor that can significantly affect dry mouth. Therefore, applying practices like exercise, relaxation, and enough sleep may lessen the effect of stress. Relaxation methods also support the healthy functioning of the glands and saliva production.

Seeking Professional Help for Dry Mouth

When to Consult a Healthcare Professional? If the condition of dry mouth continues to be present even after applying all the tricks, you need to consult a healthcare provider about your medical history.

A persistent dry mouth should be recognized as a sign of a disease for which treatment is necessary.  It is always advisable that you consult a doctor or a dentist.

They look at your history and physically examine you to find out what caused the dry mouth. They may also sometimes have a look at any medication that you could be taking that may be causing the condition. 

Seeking Professional Help for Dry Mouth

Medical Treatments for Chronic Dry Mouth: Severe cases can be treated using prescription medications like pilocarpine or cevimeline, which promote the production of saliva. At times, healthcare professionals may recommend products like fluoride rinses and gels for oral health, especially to counter tooth decay. 

Addressing Underlying Health Problems: People suffering from chronic dry mouth need proper treatment for their medical conditions, which contribute to the severity of the symptoms. Proper care for the patient, together with the prevention of diseases, can help solve the problem and prevent complications from developing.

FAQs

Can dry mouth cause tooth decay?

Yes, dry mouth is a factor in tooth decay as saliva aids in the neutralization of bacteria acids, removal of food particles, and the prevention of tooth decay. People who have poor saliva production are likely to develop cavities and other mouth-related complications. 

What are some over-the-counter remedies for dry mouth?

Some of the OTC products that are used to treat dry mouth include artificial saliva products such as sprays, rinses, and gels. 

When should I see a doctor for dry mouth?

When the symptoms of dry mouth persist even after trying out everything, it’s time to consult healthcare professionals. They will guide you about the best remedy based on your unique needs and concerns. 

The Bottom Line 

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a common problem that severely affects general well-being and oral health. This article offers valuable insight for everyone on how to deal with this problem at home. However, if the problem persists, you should better consult a healthcare professional to avoid serious consequences. 

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