With Xerostomia, X marks the spot, and that spot happens to be inside your mouth. Xerostomia is the scientific/medical term for dry mouth, a condition that has several causes and involves the salivary glands in our mouths not producing sufficient amounts of saliva. The result is a parched, or dry, sensation inside the mouth, occasionally accompanied by other symptoms such as a rough tongue, mouth sores, and/or cracked lips.
We need our saliva in steady supply, and we need it for more than just keeping our mouth lubricated and for sucking on hard candy or cough drops. Saliva is a key part of the digestion process, assisting in the moistening and breaking down of food, per healthline.com. In the more immediate vicinity, saliva acts as a significant defense mechanism that plays a role in our dental health, guarding against tooth decay and gum disease.
Causes of Xerostomia
One of the most common forms of dry mouth, naturally, is dehydration. Diseases, such as diabetes, can also be a source, negatively affecting the production of saliva. Ditto certain medications and supplements, to include appetite suppressants and chemotherapy drugs, per healthline.com. Following are other causes:
- Smoking tobacco
- Marijuana use
- Autoimmune disorders, to include rheumatoid arthritis
- Radiation therapy on the head or neck
Per National Institutes of Health (NIH), long-term occurrence of a dry mouth condition, known as chronic xerostomia, can pose a major burden for many sufferers beyond just having a dry mouth. It can also affect speech, chewing, swallowing, denture-wearing and comfort, as well as general, overall well-being. Older adults are especially of concern, as xerostomia remains an unsolved complaint from the geriatric population in search of medical or dental consultation, per NIH.
Treating Dry Mouth
In most cases, dry mouth is temporary and can be fairly easily treated. Here are some measures you can take to avoid dry mouth or overcome it:
- Sip water consistently
- Suck ice cubes
- Chew sugarless gum
- Suck on sugar-free hard candy in place of typical sweets
- Use of toothpastes, rinses, and mints available over the counter. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth, per mayoclinic.com
- Use a humidifier in the bedroom while sleeping
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, salt, and sugar
- Breathe through your nose, instead of your mouth
- Keep your lips moisturized to soothe dry or cracked areas. Lip balm or chapstick can help.
- In severe cases of dry mouth, prescription medicine might be needed to stimulate saliva production.
- Note, too, that antihistamines and decongestants can cause or worsen dry mouth
- Some supplements that may help include: peppermint, clove, fennel, cayenne, aloe vera, and slippery elm