Posted on: 9 April 2015
At some point or other, most everyone has suffered the inconvenience of an excessively dry mouth. Yet for certain people who suffer from a chronically dry mouth--a condition also known as xerostomia--more serious problems can ensue. If you suspect you may be suffering from dry mouth, read on. This article will answer three common questions about xerostomia.
What exactly is dry mouth?
Though it's name may seem self-explanatory, there's more to dry mouth than meets the eye. At its core, xerostomia is the result of underperforming salivary glands. This leads to a lack of saliva, which in turn leads to such symptoms as:
- increased thirst
- a mouth that feels dry and sticky
- mouth sores and/or cracked lips
- a raw, red tongue
- bad breath
At its most severe, dry mouth can impair your ability to speak, chew, taste and swallow. As a result, many people with chronic xerostomia develop some form of malnutrition. In addition, dry mouth also increases the risk of developing tooth decay and gingivitis.
Why is saliva so important for oral health?
Saliva is such an ordinary part of peoples lives that it can be easy to take for granted. That said, the role it plays in oral health is vital. First, it functions as an important form of lubrication. By reducing the friction between surfaces in your mouth, saliva helps to prevent such issues as ulcers and painful mouth sores.
Second, saliva is responsible for balancing the pH of your mouth. In other words, it acts to neutralize acids that can break down the enamel on your teeth. In fact, saliva actually works to remineralize the surface of teeth, keeping them strong over time. Similarly, saliva helps to combat the bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gingivitis.
Finally, enzymes present in saliva play a key role in digestion. It begins breaking starches down into sugar while still in your mouth. This allows your body to maximize the nutritional benefit it gets from the foods you eat.
What are the causes of xerostomia?
Dry mouth has a number of potential causes. Perhaps the most common is as a side effect of certain medications, including but not limited to:
- blood pressure medications
- muscle relaxants
If you have begun to experience xerostomia after starting a new prescription, be sure to mention this to your doctor, who can help determine the appropriate steps to combat it.
Dry mouth can also manifest as a side effect of certain diseases. These include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
In addition, it should be noted that xerostomia is also linked to certain lifestyle habits, especially the use of tobacco. Likewise those with trouble breathing through their nose often develop dry mouth as a result of excessive mouth breathing.
If you think you may suffer from dry mouth, contact your dentist to find out more about your treatment options.Share