Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is not a disease in itself, however for many people, it can can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms.  The risk of developing this condition tends to increase with age, and can be usually be associated with a change in composition of the saliva or a reduction of the flow rate of saliva.  However, a small number of cases have no identifiable cause.

Causes of Dry Mouth

  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • Mouth breathing - this can cause the mouth to dry out, especially if this occurs at night when the salivary flow rates are lower.
  • Medication related - over 500 medications have dry mouth listed as a side effect.
  • Radiotherapy to the head and neck - this can damage the salivary glands, and reduce the ability of these glands to produce saliva.
  • Alcohol, Smoking or other recreational drug use.
  • Sjorgen's Syndrome - an autoimmune disease that can cause damage to the joints (causing artheritis), salivary glands (causing dry mouth) and tear glands (causing dry eyes)

Effects of a dry mouth

  • Increased incidence of dental decay.
  • Increased risk of fungal or bacterial infections of the pink tissues in your mouth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing.
  • Difficulty in wearing dentures.
  • Cracking or drying of the lips.

Managing the symptoms of dry mouth

If it is possible to remove the factor(s) causing the dry mouth this should be addressed in the first instance.  Measures such as avoiding mouth breathing, or stopping smoking and cutting down alcohol consumption can help with dryness issues.  However, in cases of damage to salivary glands or when essential medicines are causing the condition, practical measures to manage the condition can be helpful.

  • Frequent sips of water
  • Sucking ice cubes
  • Chewing sugar free gum
  • Avoidance of caffeinated drinks - these can have a dehydrating effect.
  • Application of a lip balm to manage cracked lips.
  • Use of sugar free saliva replacements - these can be delivered as sprays or gels.  They are fairly short acting, and need to be administered frequently.  The effectivness of these results varies depending on the individual.

If you have concerns about dry mouth, or want more information about managing the condition, ask your dentist at Jackson and Gillies Dental Practice.