dry mouth caused
by malfunctioning salivary glands is associated with changes in saliva. the flow
of saliva can decrease, or the composition of saliva can change.
with dry mouth have varying degrees of discomfort. some people feel a dry or
burning sensation in their mouths. their mouth can feel as dry as a desert. a dry mouth may affect their ability to chew,
taste, swallow, and speak.
changes in saliva
also can affect oral and dental health. cavities, tooth loss, and gum diseases
are typically more aggressive in people with dry mouth. dry mouth also
promotes or worsens bad breath (halitosis). oral yeast infections (candida
albicans) may be an associated problem for those afflicted with dry mouth.
severe cases of
dry mouth can result in cracking of the lips, slits at the corners of the mouth,
changes in the surface of the tongue, rampant tooth decay, ulceration of the
mouth's linings, and infection.
most cases of xerostomia are caused by failure of the salivary glands to
function properly. but in some people, the sensation of a dry mouth occurs even
though their salivary glands and output of saliva are normal. dry mouth is a
common side effect of many medications as well as some medical treatments.
has many important functions in the body. it contains antibodies and special
proteins which kill germs, start the process of food digestion, lubricate food
for easier swallowing, and lubricate the mouth for proper speech, health and
everyone needs adequate amounts of
healthy saliva to:
limit the growth
of bacteria that cause tooth decay and other oral infections.
teeth by bathing them with protective minerals that allow small, early cavities
to remineralize and heal
soft tissues lining the mouth to keep them pliable and make speaking and chewing
foods and allow us to experience their sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes
by providing enzymes that break down food
food so it can be swallowed easily
teeth and mouth of food particles
medications: over 400 commonly used drugs can cause the sensation of dry mouth. the main
culprits are the anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure) and
anti-depressants. both are prescribed for millions of americans. painkillers,
tranquilizers, diuretics, and over-the-counter antihistamines can also decrease
saliva flow or quality.
cancer is often treated with radiation or chemotherapeutic drugs. radiation therapy can permanently damage salivary glands if they are
in the field of radiation. chemotherapy can change the composition of saliva,
creating a sensation of dry mouth.
the 1.2 million americans diagnosed with cancer each year, about one-third
develop oral complications from their cancer treatment. these
complications can be so debilitating that doctors are forced to use lower, less
effective doses of cancer curing drugs, to postpone scheduled treatments, or
even discontinue cancer treatment entirely. oral complications or disease
can also be a source of infections that interfere with cancer therapy or pose a
serious threat to patient survival.
these reasons, cancer patients need a dentist as part of their team of treating
healthcare professionals. dr. fox has
experience and expertise in helping cancer patients with oral problems, while
coordinating dental care with medical care through cooperation with treating
oncologists and physicians.
sjï¿½gren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder whose symptoms include
dry mouth and dry eyes. some sjï¿½gren's patients also have a connective tissue
disorder, most commonly fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus
(also called "lupus" or "sle").
conditions: bone marrow transplants, endocrine disorders, nutritional deficiencies, anxiety,
mental stress, and depression can cause a dry mouth.
the head and neck area from surgery or wounds can damage the nerves that supply
sensation to the mouth. while the salivary glands may be left intact, they
cannot function normally without the nerves that signal them to produce saliva.
perception: conditions like menopause, chronic oral yeast infections, alzheimer's disease, or stroke may change the ability to perceive
dry mouth was regarded as a normal part of aging. while the salivary glands that
produce saliva do slow down a bit with age, researchers now know that most healthy older adults do not produce
significantly less saliva than when they were younger. when older people do experience
dry mouth, it is often because they suffer from diseases that cause the condition, or
because they take medications that produce dry mouth as a side effect.
yes, there is
hope! the first step is to consult a dentist with expertise in this area
for a comprehensive oral examination. there are both in office
treatments and prescription medications that offer partial or even total relief.
although there is
no single way to treat dry mouth, there are a number of steps you can follow to
keep teeth in good health and relieve the sense of dryness. these suggestions
will not correct the underlying cause of xerostomia, but may help you feel more
your teeth at least twice a day and use dental floss daily.
a toothpaste with the american dental association seal of approval that contains
sticky, sugary foods or brush immediately after eating them.
your dentist at least three to four times a year for preventive care,
professionally applied prescription fluoride treatments, periodontal maintenance
care (if needed) and early treatment of cavities.
you dentist if you should use a remineralizing solution or
you dentist if you should use a remineralizing solution or
topical fluoride preparation at home.
sips of water or drinks without sugar. pause often while speaking to sip some
liquid. avoid caffeine-containing coffee, tea, and soft drinks. sucking on ice
chips can also be helpful.
while eating. this will make chewing and swallowing easier and may increase the
taste of foods. many patients find sipping skim milk (or other types of milk) a
keep a glass of
water by your bed for dryness during the night or upon awakening.
gum. the chewing may produce more saliva. this should not be regularly relied
on, because sugarless gums can cause tooth decay.
mints or hard sugarless candies, but let them dissolve in your mouth. cinnamon
and mint are often most effective. but be cautious because sugarless candies or
mints can cause tooth decay.
place a small
piece of lemon rind or a cherry pit in your mouth. the sucking action helps
and alcohol. also avoid commercial mouthwashes, which usually contain
alcohol that will dry the mouth further.
salty, and highly acidic foods that may irritate the mouth.
ask your dentist
about using artificial salivas to help lubricate the mouth.
humidifier, particularly at night. keeping nasal passages and sinuses
moist helps promote breathing through the nose. if nasal passages get too
dry and mouth breathing occurs, the mouth will get extremely dry very quickly.
as many as two million americans may suffer from sjï¿½gren's syndrome.
the syndrome is commonly misdiagnosed or enitrely undiagnosed. most afflicted patients
don't get the correct diagnosis for 6 to 9 years after symptoms start.
medications, salagen (pilocarpine hydrochloride) and evoxac (cevimeline), are
available to treat the dry mouth associated with sjï¿½gren's syndrome. these
medications work by stimulating salivary gland nerve receptors (the m3
muscarinic receptors). depending on the
nature and severity of symptoms, other medications include non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids), steroids, and immunosuppressive drugs.
voluntary organizations have chapters in major cities around the country that
offer support for these patients.
syndrome foundations, inc.
366 north broadway
jericho, new york 11753
tel (516) 933-6365
fax (516) 933-6368
information requests: (800) 475-6473
3201 west evans drive
phoenix, arizona 85023