Xerostomia (dry mouth)
Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth syndrome, means not having enough saliva in your mouth.
It can happen to anyone occasionally, like when you’re nervous or stressed. However, if it continues, it can make it difficult to chew, eat, swallow and sometimes even talk.
Because saliva helps keep bacteria at bay, persistent dry mouth can also increase your risk of tooth decay.
Saliva plays an important role in the overall health of your mouth, as it:
- Reduces level of decay-causing bacteria and mouth acids
- Can have anti-fungal properties
- Helps to destroy certain viruses
- Contains phosphorus and calcium to help rebuild tooth enamel
- Contains enzymes that aid food digestion
- Helps with comfortable swallowing.
If you have dry mouth syndrome, you may notice that you’re experiencing:
- The need to drink more
- Thick saliva
- A sore throat
- Difficulty speaking
- Bad breath
- Altered taste
- Cracked and dry lips
- Your tongue is sticking to the roof of your mouth
- Increase in plaque.
Various factors can cause dry mouth, including certain over-the-counter medications, medical treatments and some diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Other causes of dry mouth can include some cancer treatments and damage to the glands’ nerve system.
Dry mouth is usually more common in older people or those who breathe through their mouths. However, sometimes there is no identifiable cause.
Depending on the cause of your dry mouth, treatment may be as simple as chewing sugar-free gum which can stimulate saliva flow. Chewing gum can also have a calming effect on your body and assist in digestion.
Other things that can assist in relieving dry mouth:
- Try to limit your caffeine intake as it can make your mouth drier
- Stop smoking
- Sip water regularly
- Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol as it can dry your mouth out more (look for a mouthwash that is designed for a dry mouth)
- Breathe through your nose
- Use a humidifier at night
- Try an over-the-counter saliva substitute.
While many people experience dry mouth occasionally, if it’s persistent or causing any discomfort, or you notice other symptoms of dry eyes, blurred vision, and light intolerance you should talk to your dentist or GP.