Dry mouth is when the mouth is unusually dry and it mostly occurs when there is a reduction in the saliva produced by the salivary glands in the mouth. The dry mouth is often a side effect of certain medications a person is taking. And, dry mouth is rarely caused due to some factors that directly affect the salivary glands.
Dry mouth is a very common problem. In some cases this problem can affect the general health and the health of the teeth, appetite and taste for food.
Saliva in the mouth is beneficial in protecting the teeth from decay by neutralizing the acids which are produced by the bacteria. Saliva improves the ability to taste and swallow food easily. And lastly, the enzymes which are present in the saliva help in digestion.
The treatment for dry mouth will depend on the cause.
What are the symptoms of dry mouth?
If a person in not producing sufficient saliva then he/she will experience the following symptoms;
- More thick and stringy saliva
- Dryness of mouth and throat
- Bad breath
- Difficulty to chew, swallow and even speak
- Loss of taste for food
- Issues in wearing dentures
- More tooth decays
- Irritation on gums and gum diseases
If a person is continuously experiencing dry mouth with any or all of the symptoms mentioned above then he/she must consult a doctor to diagnose the exact cause and take the required treatment.
What are the causes of dry mouth?
- Medicines – Dry mouth can be caused as a side effect of medicines taken which also include over – the – counter medicines. The medicines that are more likely to cause this issue are those that are taken for treating depression, anxiety and nerve pain and certain muscle relaxants decongestants and pain killers.
- Age – Old age is not directly linked to dry mouth problem, but as a person grows old they take more medications for treating many medical conditions which causes dry mouth. And older people may also have certain health conditions that can cause dry mouth.
- Cancer treatment – The chemotherapy drugs taken by cancer patients can bring about change in the nature of the saliva and the quantity of saliva produced. This can be a temporary issue which gets sorted once the treatment is complete. Also the radiation treatments can cause damage to the salivary glands due to which there can be considerable reduction in the saliva produced. This issue can be a temporary or permanent depending upon the radiation dose and the treatment area.
- Nerve damage near head or neck – Any injury, accident or surgery that damages the nerves which are near the head or neck can lead to dry mouth
- Other health conditions like autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDS etc. can cause dry mouth. And Alzheimer’s disease and stroke can give a person the perception of having a dry mouth.
- Snoring or breathing with an open mouth.
- Smoking or Chewing tobacco.
What are the complications of dry mouth?
Less saliva and dry mouth can cause the following complications;
- More tooth decays, plaque and gum disease
- Sores in the mouth
- Infection in the mouth
- Split skin in the corners of the mouth
- Dry and cracked lips
- Coated or white tongue
- Chewing and swallowing food problem can cause poor nutrition
What tests and diagnosis is required for dry mouth?
To check if the patient is actually having a dry mouth, the doctor or dentist will conduct a physical examination of the mouth. Then the doctor will make a note of the medical history and the medications that the patient is currently taking either prescribed or non-prescribed.
At times the doctor will ask for blood tests, imaging scans to check the salivary glands or tests which measure the saliva that is produced. Basis the examination and tests the doctor will be able to determine the cause of dry mouth.
What is the treatment and medication required for dry mouth?
The treatment will vary depending upon the cause of dry mouth.
- Alter medications – If dry mouth is caused due to some medications that the patient is taking, the doctor or dentist will make some adjustments in the dosages or prescribe another medicine.
- Suggest products to moisturize the mouth – These can include mouth rinses, artificial saliva or moisturizers
- Medication to increase saliva – If the patient has severe dry mouth the doctor or dentist may prescribe certain medications that can increase the saliva production
- Teeth protection – As a preventive measure to protect the patient’s teeth from cavities the doctor may suggest fluoride trays. These trays have to filled with fluoride and worn over the teeth for a couple of minutes at night. The doctor may also prescribe use of chlorhexidine rinses every week to protect against cavities.
What are the home remedies for dry mouth?
- Chew sugar free gums or suck sugar free candies as this can stimulate the salivary glands and help control the dry mouth problem. But one must not have excessive sugar free gums or candies as it can cause diarrhea, abdominal or muscular cramps.
- Avoid using mouthwash that has alcohol content as this can increase the dryness in the mouth.
- Hydrate oneself by consuming a lot of fluids in the day this will help the salivary glands to secrete more saliva.
- Make use of soft bristled toothbrush as this will reach the crevices of the teeth. This will be help in effectively cleaning the mouth, restricting the bacteria that causes bad breath and reducing the dryness in the mouth.
- Avoid breathing with the mouth when there is a dry mouth problem and try and breathe through the nose. And if there is any hindrance in breathing through the nose one can make use of saline drops and take steam to remove the congestion.
- Use humidifier at night to increase the moisture in the air which will help maintain body temperature and breathe appropriately.
- Gargle mouth with saline water as this will help salivary glands secrete saliva and reduce the dry mouth problem.
- Cayenne pepper fennel seeds, ginger and cardamom are other options one can make use of to increase formation of saliva in the mouth and give relief from dry mouth problem.