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Causes of Dry Mouth - Xerostomia

The technical term for Dry Mouth is Xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah)

Dry mouth refers to the perception of oral dryness, usually due to the lack of normal salivary secretions. Millions suffer from "Dry Mouth"! It is a common problem and a growing problem. It not only impairs general health, but may also dramatically affect the quality of life.

Xerostomia or dry mouth comes from a reduced flow of saliva.

We have all experienced some degree of dry mouth. Normal dry mouth commonly occurs in the morning when we wake as our saliva flow decreases when we sleep. Saliva is produced by 3 main salivary glands and many minor salivary glands that are scattered throughout the mouth. Dry mouth occurs when these glands do not function properly.

Saliva flow can also slow when we are under stress or nervous. Some medications such as anti-depressive, antihistamines, high blood pressure and cancer medication can cause dry mouth. Radiation therapy to the head and neck area and some systemic diseases like Sjrogen's Disease are also associated with dry mouth. Research demonstrates that salivary flow declines with age and that postmenopausal women may also demonstrate a reduced rate of saliva flow. Some people feel a dry mouth even if their salivary glands are working correctly. People with certain disorders, like Alzheimer's disease or those who have suffered a stroke, may not be able to feel wetness in their mouth and complain about a dry mouth.

If one suffers from persistent dry mouth, this can be debilitating and cause health problems. Saliva contains enzymes and proteins that help with food digestion, help control the balance of bacteria in the mouth and coupled with the dishwashing washing action of saliva, help in preventing tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease. Those with dry mouth have difficulty tasting, swallowing and even speaking properly. They are more susceptible to cavities, oral infections and Periodontal (gum) disease.

What are the symptoms of dry mouth:

  • a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • problems with chewing, swallowing, tasting, or speaking
  • halitosis/mouth odor
  • a burning feeling in the mouth
  • cracked lips
  • a dry, irritated tongue
  • mouth sores
  • sleep interruptions due to thirst
  • gum inflammation or infection in the mouth
  • difficultly in wearing dentures/dental appliances

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