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What causes DRY MOUTH or XEROSTOMA

Dry Mouth Awareness

AGD Launches Dry Mouth Awareness Effort; Some Medication Warning Labels Are Tough To Swallow

More than 32 million adults are at risk of dry mouth, or xerostomia, caused mainly by prescription and over-the-counter drug products. Dry mouth can lead to extensive decay, serious oral infections and make it difficult to swallow and speak. More than 80 percent of patients complain about dry mouth and dry mouth symptoms per week, according to a recent online member poll conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). To help the public better understand dry mouth as well as find the most effective treatment, the AGD developed a new print public service announcement (PSA) intended to raise awareness about the causes and consequences of dry mouth. The AGD also developed a special section on its Web site -- http://www.agd.org -- which provides free tools the public can use to learn more about this very serious issue.

"Our profession and our members continue to see an increase of cases of this condition due to a rise in medication consumption by the public," says AGD President Bruce DeGinder, DS, MAGD. "We want to educate the public that more than 400 prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs are known to cause dry mouth and that their general dentist can help provide solutions to this problem."

Dry mouth is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep the mouth moist, which helps prevent decay and other oral health problems.

Many medications, prescription and over-the-counter, may decrease saliva flow and they can contribute to symptoms associated with dry mouth. The most common troublemakers are anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics and antihistamines. Dry mouth can cause extensive tooth decay, even in people who have had a healthy mouth for years, and it contributes to many other oral health problems. Dry mouth may be a sign of a serious health condition or may occur when a person is upset or experiences stress.

"The PSA educates the public that their general dentist can help identify medications that may be responsible for causing dry mouth," says Cindy G. Bauer, DDS, MAGD, chair of the AGD's Council on Public Information. "They may recommend home remedies such as sucking on ice chips, sucking on sugar-free hard candy or chewing gum and rinsing with a mixture of baking soda and water."