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Medically referred to as xerostomia, dry mouth is a common condition that causes discomfort in the mouth and throat. In rare situations, dry mouth can lead to other issues such as mouth sores and inflammation. A lot of people that suffer from dry mouth can't connect what is causing it in their daily lives and how to treat it so we thought we would put together an article that gives you the full picture on this annoying ailment. 

One of the most common reasons dry mouth can occur is as a side effect of medications, medical treatments, and medical illnesses. Sometimes a person can just generally have more of a tendency to have a dry mouth, without any medical cause. Keep this in mind going forward and don't over-diagnose yourself if you've had the slightest bit of dry mouth lately. 

Pin-pointing the cause of your dry mouth is based on a careful medical history analysis and examination of your mouth and throat. Dry mouth is very easily managed and if possible, it is best to treat the cause of it as well. 

Symptoms

So obviously, when suffering from dry mouth your mouth may feel dry! But it can also cause other symptoms that may not be as easy to identify. These symptoms usually begin to appear pretty rapidly, you can begin to experience symptoms of dry mouth within just a few days of the cause, such as taking a new medication. If you have dry mouth, you may be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Thick saliva 
  • Sores in your mouth along your gums or cheeks
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cracked or peeling lips, or splits in the corner of your mouth
  • Difficulty tasting flavor from your food 
  • Thick saliva in your mouth
  • A dry sensation in your mouth or throat
  • Bad breath 
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing 
  • White spots on the tongue 
  • Increased need to drink when eating and swallowing
  • Hoarse or raspy voice 
  • Dry nasal passages 

The majority of the time, these symptoms appear very mildly and tend to come and go in fluctuation with what you're eating, drinking, and doing. In some cases, such as during chemo or radiation therapy dry mouth can be much more drastic and can even result in food avoidance. 

Complications 

Causes 

  • Mouth breathing
  • Medical treatments, medication, and procedures such as bone marrow transplants, chemo, and radiation therapy. 
  • Smoking, chewing tobacco, and smokeless tobacco products
  • Blocked salivary ducts
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Injury to the nerves in the mouth 
  • Health conditions such as HIV/Aids, diabetes, depression, Parkinson's disease, thyroid disease, and dehydration. 
  • The natural aging process affecting the saliva glands resulting in a decrease in function. 
  • Medications used to treat a variety of medical issues such as high blood pressure, depression, Parkinson's disease, and more than 400 over-the-counter meds list dry mouth as a side effect. 

Saliva plays a major role in cleaning your mouth by loosening and washing away food particles. It acts as a lubricant to protect sensitive tissues inside the mouth and throat, from infections and the development of sores. Saliva contains enzymes that help digest food properly and help prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids in food you ingest, and in your mouth. This helps control and maintain bacteria, viruses, and fungi that may try to make their way into your system via the mouth. 

Diagnosis

Your dentist or doctor will likely be able to detect and diagnose xerostomia very easily and can help identify behaviors that may cause the condition. Your diagnosis is based on your dentist or doctor understanding your medical history and providing a physical examination. If you are experiencing symptoms such as the ones listed above there is a high chance that you have the condition, especially if you're taking medication or undergoing medical treatment. 
Your dentist or doctor may test and observe your tongue, teeth, and gums which can give them insight about whether you have dry mouth and to what extent. They will likely examine your throat as well because it can also reveal signs of dryness and inflammation. 

Dental Examination 

Your dental examination will include an overall assessment of your mouth, gums, and teeth. Your dentist will be able to gauge whether you possess less saliva than is the standard and can identify any other complications of dry mouth such as infection, tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease. 

Diagnostic Test

Diagnostic tests aren't typically necessary when evaluation xerostomia but you may need to have some form of diagnostic test performed if there is a concern that your dry mouth could be caused by an undiagnosed medical condition such as diabetes or thyroid disease. 

Treatment 

There are a number of approaches for managing dry mouth, including maintaining your comfort, preventative strategies, and medications. Keeping your mouth regularly moist is an immediate treatment you could do anywhere. Sipping on water throughout the day or sucking on ice chips can help a lot. You may also want to consider a humidifier in the evenings. Lipbalms, aloes, and salves, can help relieve dry and cracked lips. We suggest avoiding salty, acidic, and dry foods or beverages that can exacerbate dry mouth. 

Change In Lifestyle 

Incorporating or swapping out old behaviors for new ones is a good idea when tackling your dry mouth issue. Trying sugar-free chewing gums, sugar-free lemon drops, or other types of lozenges can help to coat your throat and mouth and encourage the production of saliva. It's vital to limit your sugar intake as it can promote cavities especially when you aren't creating as much saliva. 

 

Consistent oral care is another vital if you have dry mouth. Regular, twice-daily brushing and rinse, along with once-daily flossing can help clear out food particles and prevent bacterial growth, gum disease, and aid in your fight against the symptoms of dry mouth. 
We also suggest avoiding smoking, alcohol, and caffeine when you're suffering from dry mouth. Alcohol can be present in many types of mouthwash so it's possible it can dry your mouth out even further. Make sure to go natural with your approach to dental hygiene products and stay away from chemicals that could further irritate your dry mouth. 

Medication Info 

If your dry mouth is due to a medication side effect, your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage or change your prescription.

In some cases, artificial saliva can help lubricate your mouth, counteracting some of the effects of dry mouth. Prescription medications such as Evoxac (cevimeline) and Salagen (pilocarpine) can help stimulate the production of saliva, and your doctor may give you a prescription if you need it.

A Word From Verywell

Dry mouth is a relatively common condition. If you have a dry mouth or any of the other effects, you can speak with your doctor or dentist about it. At-home strategies are often helpful for managing the symptoms.

If your dry mouth is caused by a medical problem, however, it is best to follow your doctor or dentist's advice so that the condition will not continue to worsen—potentially resulting in complications.

 

 

 


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