Dry mouth is caused by improperly functioning salivary glands. This is often caused by disease, certain medications, or cancer treatment. Dry mouth can make it difficult to swallow, taste and speak. In certain cases, the lack of moisture can make your tongue very sensitive, causing a condition known as ‘burning tongue syndrome’.
Persistent cases of dry mouth or decreased saliva flow are often caused by biological aging. Still, there are many other causes for dry mouth, including rheumatoid conditions such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, immune system disorders such as AIDS, hormonal disorders such as diabetes, and neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Some medical treatments such as radiation therapy can permanently damage the salivary glands. Also, more than four-hundred kinds of medications list dry mouth as a side effect. The more common drugs include decongestants, diuretics, anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants, and antihistamines.
Symptoms of dry mouth are:
- Burning sensation of the tongue
- Difficulty eating, especially dry foods
- Speech difficulty
- Persistent thirst
- Difficulty wearing dentures
- Dry, cracked lips and corners of the mouth
- Impaired taste
Because heavy plaque and food accumulations tend to occur with dry mouth, those who are afflicted by it are more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. Without the presence of saliva to remove food, debris, and plaque from tooth surfaces and to neutralise acids, the tooth surface becomes more vulnerable to attack from bacteria.
Dry mouth solutions:
- Frequently sip water
- Keep water by your bed at night
- Chew sugarless gum
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and foods high in sugar
- Avoid caffeine
- Adjust the air humidity in your home
- Use a saliva substitute, which is a commercial product that ‘wets’ the mouth like saliva does
- Establish a good plaque control program, since heavy plaque accumulations occur with oral dryness
- Use a fluoride toothpaste, rinse, or gel
There are quite a few products on the market specifically for this condition.