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What Causes Dry Mouth? | Symptoms & Treatment Guide

Dry mouth is a condition that usually results from decreased production of saliva. Dry mouth is also called as xerostomia.

Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while- when they are nervous, upset or under stress. But if you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable and can lead to serious health problems. Dry mouth is a symptom of an underlying problem, rather than a disease itself.

Salivary glands produce the saliva which is pumped into the mouth along tiny channels called salivary ducts.

Salivary glands are

  • Parotid glands:-located in front of the ear and behind the angle of the jaw.
  • Submandibular salivary glands:-located beneath the tongue on both sides of the jaw
  • Sublingual salivary glands:-located at the floor of the mouth.

Functions of saliva:-

Saliva is a essential part of a healthy mouth.

  • Acts as a lubricant(reduces the friction during chewing and swallowing)
  • Neutralizes the acids
  • Contain antibodies against bacterial threat
  • Helps in digestion of food
  • Acts as a solvent for the taste stimuli
  • Flushes food particles
  • Contain antifungal properties
  • Contain phosphorus and calcium which are used in the process of remineralisation
  • Helps with the formation of particular sounds in speech

dry mouth causesDry Mouth Causes:-

  1. Side effect of certain medications:-most commonly occurs as a side effect of medications that cause decrease saliva production including

Blood pressure medication




Muscle relaxants and sedatives

Pain killers

  1. Side effect of certain diseases and infections:-side effect of medical conditions include
  • Sjogren’s syndrome:-dry mouth is one of the major symptom of the Sjogren’s is the disease of the immune system where the body attacks its own moisture creating tear and salivary glands. This syndrome includes dry eyes, nose, throat, even dry skin.
  • Hiv
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mumps

3.Salivary gland malfunction, salivary gland stones, Salivary gland infections, salivary gland swelling leads to decreased saliva production

4 .Nerve damage:-nerve damage to the head and neck area, can result dry mouth

  1. Radiation:-radiation to head and neck can damage salivary glands, causing a marked decrease in saliva production. This can be temporary or permanent depending on the dose and area of treatment
  2. Chemotherapy:- drugs can change the nature of saliva and the amount produced. this is temporary with normal salivary flow returning after the treatment has been completed.
  3. Salivary duct obstruction:-small stones made from saliva minerals may lodge in the ducts and restrict saliva flow
  4. Dehydration:-water or metabolite loss can lead to dry mouth. ex: blood loss, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, kidney failure
  5. Mouth breathing:-usually caused by partial obstruction of the upper respiratory tract.
  6. Tobacco;-chewing or smoking tobacco can increase the risk of dry mouth symptoms

Other rare causes are hyperparathyroidism, salivary gland aplasia or atresia,sarcoidosis

Dry Mouth Symptoms:-

  • Sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning feeling in the mouth.
  • Bad breath
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry, tough tongue
  • Mouth sores
  • Sticky, stringy saliva
  • Sore throat
  • Taste disorders
  • Infections in the mouth
  • Multiple cavities
  • Gum irritation and gum diseases.

Treatment for Dry Mouth:-

Underlying causes such as medical condition, salivary gland diseases, mouth breathing,dehydration should be treated

Saliva substitutes:-these include

  • Water
  • Artificial saliva
  • Other substances like milk, vegetable oil

Saliva stimulation:-

  • Sugar free chewing gums
  • Medication such as pilocarpine

Prevention of caries and fungal infections:

  • Take low sugar diet
  • Use antimicrobial rinses
  • Use tooth paste containing fluoride, calcium, phosphate
  • Fluoride treatment
  • Topical antifungal treatment to treat oral thrush
  • Dentures should be soaked daily in chlorhexidine.
  • Use humidifier in the bed room

Individuals with dry mouth should avoid

  • Sugar foods and drinks
  • Dry foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Excessively hot or cold drinks
  • Acidic foods or drinks
  • Over consumption of alcohol and caffeine containing drinks
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco

Dental Health Guide, Providing information on dental care and dental hygiene along with detailing the most common dental diseases with symptoms and treatment methods. Readers should use the dental articles as reference only and consult a dentist and visit a dental clinic for dental health problems.

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