Saliva is a useful biological secretion that not only assists in digestion of food, but also keeps germs at bay. Obviously, the lack of it can lead to several oral problems. You may think that dry mouth (medically referred to as xerostomia) may not be of any serious consequence. The fact being, not only does it aggravate the growth of bacteria and fungi in the mouth, but it also gives rise to numerous dental and gum diseases. Before initiating the treatment, one must first understand what is the exact cause behind it.
Here is a list of symptoms that will help you to identify if you have xerostomia:
- Frequent and excessive thirst.
- Red tongue with mouth sores.
- A painful, burning sensation inside the mouth and on the tongue.
- Pain while swallowing food or drinking.
- Difficulty in speaking.
- Sores inside the cheeks or at the corners of the lips.
- Diminished taste sense.
- Sore throat or hoarseness of voice.
- Halitosis or bad breath.
- Dental problems; difficulty in wearing dentures.
- Frequent oral yeast infections.
Dry mouth may be a symptom of some underlying disease like Sjogren's Syndrome or Parkinson's disease. Also, in case of Alzheimer's disease, a person may experience this even though he does not have one. As it is directly related to the functioning of the salivary glands, diseases that affect the salivary glands can also cause this problem.
Side Effects of Drugs
Certain drugs and medications are known to affect the working of the salivary gland. These medications have a direct impact on the amount of saliva secreted by the salivary glands. There are over 400 medications that are likely to cause dry mouth as one of their side effects. However, it is necessary to consult your physician before discontinuing the medications, as he may have already considered this factor while prescribing the dosage.
Cancer treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy have adverse effects on the salivary glands. If they are exposed during radiation therapy, then the radiation renders them dysfunctional, resulting in decreased amount of saliva. Additionally, the drugs that are used for chemotherapy make the saliva thicker, which leads to this discomfort.
Salivary glands secrete saliva upon the stimulation by the nerves. Damage to these nerves affects the production of saliva. Normally, injuries to the neck or head can affect the nerves concerned with saliva production.
- Dry mouth can be prevented by taking small sips of water regularly.
- Cut down on your intake of tea and coffee as they tend to dehydrate you.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay.
- Quit smoking and alcohol.
- Try some sugar-free candies or mint candies to stimulate saliva production.
- Brush at least twice a day, especially at night to prevent this.
- Floss your teeth without fail, at least once a day.
- Use a mouthwash that is free of alcohol and peroxide.
- Avoid dry, salty, sticky, sugary foods.
- You can also try over-the-counter saliva substitutes or oral moisturizers that are available at the local pharmacies.
As you must have noticed, the causes are mostly difficult to avoid completely. Hence, if you are susceptible to dry mouth due to any of the above reasons, then the only way is to bind with all the precautions, as your own actions would affect you and cause discomfort.