Many of us have at one time or another experienced the sensation of having a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and unnatural feeling that for many becomes a serious medical issue related to the composition of one’s saliva or with a lack of its production. If you experience dry mouth as a side effect of certain medications or when you are congested or dehydrated, you have nothing to worry about except drinking plenty of water and waiting for it to pass. If however you experience the feeling of dryness in your mouth that doesn’t seem to subside or have a trigger, today’s post is about letting you know what it means and how to proactively deal with this issue.
What a Dry Mouth Means?
Xerostomia can either be its own medical issue or the result of a more serious condition. There are also cases where dry mouth occurs without any identifiable cause; subjective xerostomia. A dry mouth creates an unnatural oral environment as our saliva serves to nourish and protect our teeth and maintain an optimal pH balance in our mouths. A lack of saliva can create an environment for cavity causing bacteria to wreak havoc. Bad breath (Halitosis) is also a common complaint as well as difficulty chewing and swallowing certain foods, wearing dentures and overall soreness. These are clearly things that over time create physical, emotional and quality of life issues.
In more serious cases, xerostomia is a symptom of a more serious medical condition including Diabetes (dehydration), Sicca syndrome (along with dry eyes) and Sjögren’s syndrome (autoimmune damage to salivary glands). Other common causes are frequent and robust alcohol use, smoking and recreational drug use.
How to Treat Dry Mouth?
The first medical professional that comes to know of a patient’s dry mouth is a dentist. This is because the oral cavity and teeth are their area of expertise. This makes them the best person to consult if you feel like you have xerostomia or have an uncommonly dry mouth. Depending on their familiarity with the issue or their assessment, it is common for your dentist to recommend further medical testing. Several tests, including the measure of saliva produced over time (sialometry) in a non-stimulated and stimulated environment are effective and non-invasive. Calculus (tartar) can also be the cause of a dry mouth as buildup can cause a blockage. Such an issue is identifiable using an iodine dye. Other non dental medical tests including MRIs, blood work, urine tests or in very rare cases a biopsy may be recommended and required to rule out causes.
In the vast majority of cases the reason or cause of dry mouth is identified and treated via excellent hydration, dietary choices and strong oral hygiene habits. In some cases saliva stimulants such as malic acid or sugar free mints are recommended. Unfortunately dry mouth is difficult to treat permanently as it is symptomatic or not correctable. This means that dry mouth will become a permanent medical issue over time. Treating it proactively and consistently is key to not letting it impact your life more than it ever has to.
Photo: White Pine Healing Arts