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24 / 10 / 2017
Dry Mouth
 
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Dry mouth

 

Everyone has a dry mouth once in a while, especially if you're nervous, Lack of saliva is a common problem that may seem little more than a nuisance.  Persistent dry mouth can affect how your food tastes and may even affect the health of your teeth. Although the treatment depends on the cause, dry mouth is often a side effect of medication.

The saliva in your mouth serves many purposes. Most noticeably, saliva makes it easier to talk. Saliva also helps prevent tooth decay. It washes away food and plaque from your teeth. Minerals found in saliva help repair early tooth decay. Saliva also limits bacterial growth that can dissolve tooth enamel or lead to mouth infections. And saliva neutralizes damaging acids in your mouth. Saliva enhances your ability to taste your food and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.

On any given day, a healthy adult produces about 3 pints of saliva. Still, saliva generally goes unnoticed unless you don't produce enough. In that case, the result is xerostomia  — the medical term for dry mouth.

Signs and symptoms 

Aside from the sensation of dryness in your mouth, xerostomia may result in:

  • Saliva that seems thick, stringy

  • Sores or split skin at the corners of your mouth

  • Bad breath

  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing

  • A burning or tingling sensation of your tongue

  • An altered sense of taste

  • Increased plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease

Causes 

Dry mouth once was thought to be part of aging. But most xerostomia actually is related to the medications taken by older adults rather than to their age. Many common medications, including some over-the-counter drugs, produce dry mouth as a side effect. Among the more likely types to cause problems are some of the drugs used to treat depression and anxiety, antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, antidiarrheals, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, and Parkinson's disease medications.

There also can be other causes, among them cancer therapy. Chemotherapy drugs can change the nature of saliva and the amount produced. Radiation treatments to your head and neck can damage salivary glands.

Nerve damage to your head and neck area from an injury or surgery also can result in xerostomia. Other conditions that can lead to dry mouth include the autoimmune disease Sjogren's syndrome, endocrine disorders, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, anxiety disorders and depression.

In addition, smoking or chewing tobacco can affect saliva production, aggravating dry mouth. Snoring and breathing with your mouth open also can contribute to the problem.

Treatment 

To determine if you have dry mouth, your doctor or dentist likely will examine your mouth and review your medical history. Sometimes you'll need blood tests and imaging scans of your salivary glands for your doctor to identify the cause. If your doctor believes medication to be the cause, he or she may adjust your dosage or switch you to another medication that doesn't cause a dry mouth. Your doctor may also consider prescribing the drug pilocarpine (Salagen) to stimulate saliva production.

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.

In no event will the DrEddyClinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.
 
 
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Dr. Eddy Bettermann M.D.

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Email: dreddy@dreddyclinic.com

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