What is Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)?

Jan 11 • 3 minute read

Affecting as many as 10% of all people, dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition that results from a decreased volume of saliva in the mouth. This condition tends to be more prevalent in women than men, and occurs most often in the elderly and in those taking prescription and non-prescription medications. Dry mouth can be incredibly uncomfortable, and when severe, can significantly decrease your quality of life. If you are experiencing dry mouth, Woodside Dental wants to help. Read on to learn more about what causes this condition, and how Woodside Dental can help you maintain optimal oral health. 

What is dry mouth (xerostomia)?

More than just feeling thirsty, xerostomia can make it difficult to speak, eat, and digest food. In severe cases, dry mouth can even lead to permanent mouth and throat disorders, as well as malnutrition, anxiety, and a decreased quality of life. Resulting from an inadequate flow of saliva, dry mouth is not a disease, but rather is a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications. More than 400 types of medications can cause dry mouth, including antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics and others. Drugs for high blood pressure, overactive bladder, and mental health issues, are known to increase likelihood of this condition. Some medical treatments such as cancer radiation, which can hurt the glands that make saliva, or chemotherapy treatments, can also cause dry mouth. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, and some autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, can also affect saliva production and lead to dry mouth.

Other common causes of dry mouth include:

  • Dehydration

  • Aging

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Smoking tobacco or marijuana

  • Taking tranquilizers

  • Breathing through your mouth

How does dry mouth affect my oral health?

Dry mouth is a disorder of saliva production, and when you experience dry mouth (xerostomia), your mouth is making very little saliva, if any at all. Because saliva plays such an important role in our mouths, xerostomia can have a significant impact on oral health. Saliva offers first-line protection against tooth decay and wards off microbial invasion by washing away food and other debris, neutralizing acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and providing disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth.  Saliva also helps maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth, and is important for tasting food and drinks and helping aid digestion. 

Without adequate saliva, serious problems to your oral health can occur, including extensive tooth decay. If you suffer from xerostomia (dry mouth) your dentist may be able to recommend various methods to restore moisture and increase salivary production. The Woodside Dental professional team will work closely with you to find solutions that can help you to increase saliva production and decrease the effects of dry mouth. Sugar-free candy or gum can stimulate saliva flow, helping to decrease dry mouth, and has been an effective solution for many. For others, using artificial saliva and oral rinses has been the most helpful. At Woodside, we recommend our patients use products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance for safe, effective relief of dry mouth symptoms.

Dry mouth can be more than just uncomfortable. It can cause a constant sore throat or a burning sensation, and may cause hoarseness of voice and dry nasal passages, making speaking difficult. Dry mouth can make it difficult to eat and digest food, and can lead to trouble swallowing, in severe instances leading to malnutrition. If left untreated, dry mouth can eventually lead to permanent mouth and throat disorders, and can produce significant anxiety, impairing a person's quality of life. If you are suffering from dry mouth, talk to us about how we can help. We are open for routine dental care and check-ups, and we are following all local, state, and federal health guidelines to ensure your safety. Please don’t delay taking care of your oral health - at Woodside Dental, we are here to help. Give us a call at (805) 647-1322, or contact us here, to set up your next appointment. 

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