Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is also known as Xerostomia.
Not until we suffer from a dry mouth, do we appreciate the role of saliva.
People may suffer from low saliva production for many reasons.
The most common ones are:

  • Taking medication such as antidepressants, antihistamines and medication for treating high blood pressure.
  • After receiving radiation therapy in the head-neck area. This can damage the salivary cells and limit the production of saliva.
  • Suffering from other systemic diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome and diabetes.
  • Surgery to the neck area where the salivary glands are affected.
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

As we age some of us will experience lower saliva production and hence a drier mouth.

The role of saliva:

  • Lubricates the mouth.
  • Protects the teeth from decay and gum disease.
  • Enzymes in the saliva soften and break down the food to make it easier to swallow and taste.
  • Protects the tongue, lips and the inside of the cheeks from drying up and cracking.
  • Facilitates speech.

What should I do if I have a dry mouth?

  • If dry mouth is caused by a specific medication, ask your doctor for alternative medicine if possible.
  • If the cause of your dry mouth is lower salivary gland function, try to stimulate it by chewing sugar free gums.
  • There are also medicines that could be prescribed by your dentist or doctor to stimulate the salivary glands.
  • If your saliva production is extremely low, you could use saliva replacing products.

Other tips that may help:

  • Visit your dentist regularly to monitor your oral health…this can mean 4 or 5 monthly check ups.
  • Use mouth lubricators to protect lips and tongue from cracking and to facilitate speech.
  • Drink sugar free fluids with food to facilitate chewing and swallowing and even for better digestion.
  • Brush your teeth and gums gently and meticulously to prevent decay and gum disease.
  • Rinse with mouth washes rich in Fluoride. Fluoride neutralises early decay and strengthens the surface of the tooth.
  • Avoid alcohol as it dehydrates the mouth.

Posted by Dr. Yasmin George.

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