XEROSTOMIA

Xerostomia, or also called dry mouth, is a condition wherein your salivary glands do not make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet regularly. Having this condition, it is less likely to directly affect our salivary glands. This is because xerostomia is often due to the side effects of taking certain medications or because of aging issues. It could also be a result of having radiation therapy for cancer.

The saliva is a fundamental necessity to help the mouth function, and it also has a significant function in our digestive system. It helps prevent our teeth from decaying by neutralizing acids that are produced by the bacteria in the mouth, while also limiting the growth of bacteria and washing away any food particles inside the mouth. Saliva also enhances our ability to taste and it makes chewing and swallowing easier for us. Lastly, the enzymes in the saliva help in digesting food in our stomach.

Having dry mouth or xerostomia disturbs our daily life, making it uncomfortable from time to time. But it also has a considerable impact on our general health, especially the health of our teeth and gums. Also, it spoils our appetite in the food making it less enjoyable when eating.

When treating dry mouth, it varies greatly depending on its cause.

Causes

Xerostomia is a condition where your salivary glands in your mouth does not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This is due to the effects of:

  • Due to numerous medications, both over-the-counter drugs and prescribed drugs, dry mouth can ensue. It is mostly due to the drugs that are used to treat depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety, in addition to some antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and pain medications.
  • As a person grows old, some of their body’s functions slow down or deteriorate; as such, they might experience dry mouth. Why this happens may be due to lack of nutrition, and have long-term health problems.
  • Cancer Therapy. Chemotherapy drugs being prescribed may result in dry mouth, although this is temporary because it’ll return after the treatment is complete. It can still change the nature and amount of saliva being produced. In contrast, radiation treatment to one’s head can cause dry mouth temporarily or permanently, depending on the dosage and the area being treated with radiation. Mainly, radiation treatments to your head and neck can cause damage to the salivary glands, causing a significant decrease in saliva production.
  • Nerve Damage. When your nerves get damaged in your head or neckdue to an injury or surgery, this could lead to x

Other Health Conditions. When suffering from different health problems, side effects are bound to happen. For dry mouth, there are specific health problems and conditions that could lead to it, such as suffering from diabetes, stroke, yeast infection (thrush) in your mouth, or having Alzheimer’s disease. Also, having autoimmune diseases could contribute to this, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS. Snoring and breathing with your mouth open can also be the cause of having a dry mouth.

Tobacco and Alcohol Use. Drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco can increase the chance of having dry mouth symptoms.

Recreational Drug Use. The intake of “meth” or marijuana can cause dry mouth. Also, methamphetamine can not only cause the person severe dry mouth but also damage to their teeth, a condition that is known as “meth mouth”.

 

SYMPTOMS

When you’re not sure if you have dry mouth or not, below are symptoms and signs of having one, besides not producing enough saliva for your mouth.

  • Dryness or a feeling of stickiness in your mouth
  • Saliva that seems thick and stringy
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing
  • Dry or sore throat and hoarseness
  • Dry or grooved tongue
  • A changed sense of taste
  • Problems wearing dentures

Also, lipstick may easily stick to the teeth when having a dry mouth.

If you are experiencing most of these signs and symptoms, it is best to see your doctor and get diagnosed.

DIAGNOSIS

When suffering from Xerostomia, its effects could become noticeable to others and cause a huge impact on one’s health, such as:

  • Increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
  • Mouth sores
  • Yeast infection in your mouth (thrush)
  • Sores or split skin at the corners of your mouth, or cracked lips
  • Poor nutrition from having problems with chewing and swallowing

When suffering from the symptoms mentioned above and signs of Xerostomia, you’ll most like undergo these following procedures when getting diagnosed. First would be that your doctor will check your medical history and all of the medications that you’ve been taking, then your mouth will be examined. There are also times when they’ll run a few tests and take measures of your saliva production to see how much saliva you produce. Also, you’ll get your blood tested, and get imaging scans of your salivary glands to see the cause of your dry mouth.

And as for the possibility of having dry mouth due to Sjogren’s Syndrome, your doctor will get a small sample of cells (biopsy) taken from your salivary glands to be sent for testing.

 

TREATMENT

Your treatments for dry mouth will rely solely on its cause. Your doctor may:

  • Change medications that cause dry mouth.If your doctor discovers that the purpose of your dry mouth may be due to drugs, then they’ll adjust the dosage your intake or entirely switch the medication that you are taking so that it doesn’t cause you a dry mouth.
  • Recommended products to moisturize your mouth.Your doctor will prescribe you with medications or products that could help in moisturizing your mouth and such as over-the-counter mouth rinses, artificial saliva, or moisturizers to lubricate your mouth. There are also different types and brands of mouthwashes that you’ll be prescribed to use, which comes with protection against tooth decay.
  • Prescribe medication that stimulates saliva.When suffering from severe dry mouth, your doctor may prescribe pilocarpine or cevimeline to stimulate saliva production.
  • Protect your teeth. Having a severely dry mouth could lead to the decay of teeth due to cavities. As such, your dentist might recommend you to have fluoride trays, which you fill with fluoride and wear them over your teeth during the night. They may also recommend using chlorhexidine rinse weekly to control the cavities in your mouth.

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