Dry Mouth Issues
What is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is the result of not having enough saliva in your mouth. You may notice you have a dry tongue, lips or throat. Because saliva helps you taste and digest food, dry mouth can make eating difficult or embarrassing. Saliva also lubricates and protects your mouth from infection and protects your teeth from the acids in food. Reduced saliva flow, which causes Dry Mouth, can damage mouth tissue and contribute to both dental decay and bad breath.
Up to 30% of Americans experience dry mouth at various points in their lives. It is a symptom, not a disease entity, and can be temporary, reversible, or permanent. There are many common causes of dry mouth — antihistamine use for allergies and colds, high fevers with dehydration, anxiety, scary movies, public speaking, dental procedures, heredity, snoring, and mouth breathing, but medications and nonpharmacologic conditions are the most frequent causes. Early detection is important before the onset of nutritional deficiencies, infection, and rampant cavities.
The Role of Saliva
The average, healthy person produces about a quart of saliva daily. It is produced by three pairs of major salivary glands and hundreds of minor salivary glands. Saliva is composed of 99% water. The remaining 1% contains about 60 substances, including electrolytes, enzymes, and proteins. Saliva is an essential body fluid that protects the mouth and preserves oral functions. If you have Dry Mouth, the loss of salivary proteins and electrolytes accelerates cavities and infection.
Saliva’s role is much more complex than moistening food during chewing and allowing for easier swallowing. Here are the multiple functions of saliva:
- The calcium and phosphate in saliva promote remineralization; diminished salivary flow reduces mineral availability.
- Saliva distributes and recycles fluoride.
- Saliva protects hard and soft tooth structures from drying.
- Adequate saliva discourages the growth of acidophilic bacteria.
- Before vomiting, the brain signals the salivary glands to increase salivary production. This action decreases oral acidity and protects oral structures from acidic emesis.
- Some research scientists believe that saliva may have an immunological purpose in humans.
Signs and symptoms of Dry Mouth
Compromised salivary production will cause any or all of the following symptoms: viscous, sticky saliva, a dry or burning feeling in the mouth, lips, and throat; cracked lips and commissures; a rough, fissured, white tongue; severe halitosis; and mouth sores. These symptoms can create difficulties such as impaired taste, swallowing (especially dry foods) without fluids, speaking, and digestion. In addition, a dry mouth may worsen cavities, initiate thrush infections, and lead to a change in dietary preferences and unwanted weight loss. As a result of the multitude of possible side effects, Dry Mouth can affect an individual’s nutritional status, leading to vitamin, mineral, and caloric insufficiencies.
After Dr. Basil assesses and identifies the possible cause(s) of Dry Mouth, viable treatment options can be offered. Diet counseling, instruction for rigorous biofilm control, daily oral self-examination, regular teeth cleaning, adjusting home humidity, avoiding tobacco, caffeine, acidic drinks, and alcohol are all viable alternatives.
Information courtesy of:biotene.com & http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-34/issue-3/features/finding-comfort-with-a-dry-mouth.html