Dry Mouth

Dry mouth (reduced saliva, xerostomia) is problematic:

  • Increased risk of cavities, because saliva controls oral bacteria and builds up teeth
  • Slower digestion, because digestion should start with enzymes in saliva
  • Increased risk of oral infections
  • Decreased sense of taste and enjoyment of food
  • Bad breath, for saliva rinses the mouth of food
  • dry-mouth
  • woman drinking water
  • man drinking water

Causes of dry mouth

Find yours

The causes of dry mouth vary:

  • Medications, such as those for those for acne, allergies (antihistamines), anxiety, asthma, depression, diarrhea, high blood pressure, incontinence, nausea, obesity, Parkinson's disease. Other contributors are muscle relaxants and sedatives.
  • Aging, since it is associated with medications.
  • Damage to salivary glands (say, due to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, neck surgery)
  • Dehydration (say, due to fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of blood)
  • Habits, such as consumption of tobacco or methamphetamines ("meth"), breathing with mouth open, snoring.
  • Diabetes, anemia, hypertension

Treatment of xerostomia

Depends on cause

Treatment of dry mouth should target its causes. For example, if your dry mouth is caused by medication, then an alternative medication may be in order. If you snore, then an anti-snoring night guard is in order.

Until treatment ends, however, you can and should promote saliva in these simple ways: chew sugar-free gum, drink water more often, run a humidifier. Further, since dry mouth's greatest risk is cavities, you should counteract by fighting plaque, the main preventable cause of cavities. Fight plaque by the ADA guidelines for oral hygiene.

Incidence

Elderly & medicated

Dry mouth's incidence is greater among seniors (10% - 40%) and women.

Medications seem to account for a substantial portion of cases, especially among the elderly. Over 400 agents in drugs affect salivary levels, with evidence that the risk of xerostomia rises with the number of medications.

References

American Academy of Oral Medicine - Dry Mouth - Treatment
CDC - Oral Health, U.S. 2002 Annual Report
NIH.gov - Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Wikipedia - Xerostomia