Dry mouth, also known by its medical name, “xerostomia” is a condition characterized by either a lack of saliva or a decrease in its flow. Since saliva plays an essential role in aiding digestion and maintaining good dental health, the consequences of xerostomia can be significant.
Three pairs of major salivary glands along with hundreds of minor salivary glands inside your mouth produce approximately 2-4 pints of saliva every 24 hours. Composed of 99% water and 1% electrolytes, enzymes and proteins; saliva washes over the teeth and surrounding soft tissues to cleanse and protect them from germs, tooth decay, and gum disease. Saliva also plays a crucial role in keeping the mouth lubricated and comfortable, so that food can be moved through the mouth easily for purposes of chewing, tasting and swallowing.
A lack of saliva makes simple oral functions more difficult and causes germs to increase in your mouth. More germs lead to bad breath, dental decay, gum disease, and provide the groundwork for a host of oral infections.
Common reasons for the condition include the following:
• Age (Dry mouth is frequently seen in the elderly)
• Cancer treatment
• Injury or Surgery
• Tobacco use
What is the treatment for dry mouth?
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon can assess and provide guidance on managing and addressing the consequences of this condition. Treatment of dry mouth depends on the underlying cause of the problem. If it develops as a side effect of a particular drug, your physician may be able to prescribe an alternative medication. In some cases, dry mouth may respond to drugs that promote an increased salivary flow. If not, artificial saliva can be used to keep the mouth moist and lubricated. As an added level of protection from tooth decay, a prescription strength fluoride gel may be recommended. Patients can help alleviate some of the effects of dry mouth, by drinking water more frequently and avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol. They can also help to stimulate the flow of saliva by chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy. With dry mouth, it is essential to see the dentist on a regular basis for care.