Dry Mouth, (Oral Dryness) also known as “XEROSTOMIA”is a very common condition. It affects about one in every four to five adults, mainly women. Moreover, its prevalence increases with age, about 30-40% of the old age people suffer from oral dryness. .
What are the causes of a dry mouth?
A dry mouth is not a diagnosis in itself. It is a symptom and there are various causes which include:
• Medication. Various drugs can cause a dry mouth as a side-effect. For example, tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, some antiepileptic drugs, some antipsychotic, beta-blockers, and diuretics .Many of these drugs cause a dry mouth by affecting the salivary glands which reduce the amount of saliva that these glands make.
• Mouth breathing – which can be due to a blocked nose or other causes.
• Dehydration (low body fluid). This may occur for many reasons, but you will usually be quite ill with fever or other symptoms if you are dehydrated.
• Sjögren’s Syndrome. This is a condition which can affect various parts of the body including the joints (which can cause arthritis), the salivary glands (which can cause a dry mouth), and the tear glands (which can cause dry eyes).
• Radiotherapy to the head or neck. The radiotherapy can damage the salivary glands.
What are the treatments for a dry mouth?
Treat the causes
in some cases; it may be possible to treat the underlying cause.
• If a drug is causing the dry mouth as a side-effect, it may be possible to change to a different drug, or to reduce the dose.
• Dehydration, a blocked nose, and anxiety can often be treated.
whatever the cause, the following will often help.
• Petroleum jelly to your lips to prevent drying and cracking.
• Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
• Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
• Protecting your teeth by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, using a fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist regularly
• Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible
• Using a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air
• Using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.
if the above measures are not adequate, then your doctor may prescribe a spray, gel or lozenge which acts as a substitute for saliva. Each dose only lasts a short time and so they need to be used frequently. Some people find artificial saliva products more helpful than others.
In some cases of dry mouth, the saliva glands are only partially affected and can be ‘stimulated’ to make more saliva.
Chewing sugar-free gum can help to increase the production and flow of saliva.
Pilocarpine is a drug which can stimulate salivary glands to make more saliva. It may be prescribed if other measures have not helped much. Pilocarpine usually works well and quickly in most people with a dry mouth caused by a medication side-effect.