Xerostomia or Dry Mouth

Mouth | General Practice | Xerostomia or Dry Mouth (Symptom)


Absence of the saliva is a common problem that may seem only a matter of discomfort, but dry mouth can affect the pleasure of eating and dental health. The medical term that defines dry mouth is xerostomia.

Dry mouth can cause problems because the saliva helps prevent tooth decay by limiting the growth of bacteria and food and helps removing the tartar and the plaque. Saliva increases the ability to feel the taste of food and facilitates swallowing. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid digestion. Although treatment depends on the cause, dry mouth is often a side effect of medication. The condition can be improved by adjusting the dosage or change medication.

If a person does not produce enough saliva, these signs and symptoms can appear: Dry mouth; Saliva that appears viscous, sticky; Cracks in the corners of mouth; Dry lips; Bad breath; Difficulty speaking and swallowing; Sore throat and painful; Altered sense of taste; Fungal infections of the mouth; Increased incidence of plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.


Hundreds of medications, including some release without prescription, have the side effect dry mouth. The types of drugs more likely to cause such problems are some medications used to treat depression and anxiety, antihistamines, decongestants, antihypertensive, muscle relaxants, drugs used to treat urinary incontinence and Parkinson disease. Age is not in itself a risk factor for developing this condition.

However, the elderly have a higher incidence in the use of drugs which have side effects dry mouth and are more prone to diseases that involve this. Chemotherapy drugs can alter the nature and amount of saliva produced. Radiation to the head and neck can damage salivary glands, causing a significant decrease of saliva production. Any trauma or surgery that causes nerve damage in head and neck can cause dry mouth.

Dry mouth can be a consequence of other medical conditions - or their treatments - including the autoimmune disease Sjogrens syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson disease, HIV / AIDS, anxiety disorders and depression. Stroke and Alzheimer disease can cause dry mouth, salivary glands function normally though. Snoring and breathing with open mouth can contribute to this problem.


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