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Dry Mouth

dry mouth

By Dr. Robert Griggs

Most of us have experienced dry mouth symptoms in our lives. On a temporary basis it is more of an inconvenience than an imposition. If you have ever gotten up in front of a large crowd to speak and felt a little nervous you know that your mouth gets so dry, camels would feel right at home sitting on your tongue.

But what happens to those individuals who experience dry mouth on a continuing basis and why is it occurring? Individuals living with dry mouth, referred to as xerostomia, on a regular basis experience a number of changes and symptoms. Often times their mouth feels sticky. The surface of the tongue becomes raised and sensitive along with a burning sensation. Swallowing and chewing food becomes more difficult and sometimes painful. The corner of the lips, known as the commissures can become sore, red and cracked. The taste of food changes. Speaking becomes more difficult. Their lips can be dry and cracked and we see a high incidence of decay (cavities). Oral candidiasis (fungal) can be another result and very common in denture wearers. And to add insult to injury, bad breath is another byproduct.

So what causes dry mouth?

A number of factors, either in combination or alone can be the culprit. Below is a list of some of the most common reasons;

1) Medications such as antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, meds for depression, chemotherapeutic drugs, in all there are over 400 medications that can affect (reduce) salivary production.

2) Chemotherapy

3) Removal of parotid gland

4) Radiation

5) Age

6) Smoking

Dry mouth can also be a symptom of systemic diseases or hormonal changes.

7) Diabetes

8) Hormonal changes, especially during and after menopause.

9) Jorgen’s syndrome

10) Lupus

11) Hodgkin’s

12) Parkinson’s


If you suffer from xerostomia what can you do? To begin with there are several over the counter remedies. One of the more popular products is called Biotene. They offer a host of relief agents such as gels, sprays, oral rinses and gum. It should be noted that extreme caution should be taken to avoid using candy, lollipops, sodas, energy drinks or gum that contain sugar. These products can cause severe decay with xerostomia very quickly. Also any mouthwash product that contains alcohol will worsen the dry mouth situation and should be avoided.

Additional products that can be helpful include;

1) Prescription toothpastes & rinses that have higher fluoride content.

2) Baking soda toothpastes

3) Therabreath

4) Oramoist

5) Sugar free gum

6) Drink plenty of water, stay hydrated

7) Salagen (pilocarpine)

8) Evoxac (cevimeline)

9) Denture wearers should disinfect their dentures with a 1% bleach solution on a regular basis.

10) Stop smoking

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