Dry mouth

Does your mouth feel dry? What causes dry mouth?

The feeling of dry mouth, or xerostomia, and reduced flow of saliva, known as hyposalivation, are common complaints among the adult population, particularly women. Dry mouth may be caused by several different factors. Dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of medicinal agents. In fact, medication is the most common cause of xerostomia. Drugs that cause dry mouth include several drugs used in cardiovascular diseases, diuretics, psychoactive drugs, antihistamines and asthma medications and drugs with an effect on the gastrointestinal tract. When such drugs are used concomitantly, the risk of dry mouth increases further.

In addition to drugs, several general diseases cause xerostomia. The feeling of dry mouth and insufficient flow of saliva commonly occur in diabetics, rheumatics and patients with Sjögren’s syndrome. In addition, radiotherapy to the head and neck area reduce the flow of saliva considerably, even permanently. Pregnancy, menopause, stress and depression may also cause dry mouth due to hormonal reasons. Anorexia, bulimia, repeated fasting and excessive mouth breathing may also dry out the mouth.

What symptoms are associated with dry mouth? What effects does reduced flow of saliva have?

Normally, an adult produces approximately 0.5 to 1 liters of saliva in 24 hours. Saliva has an important protective property on the mouth and teeth, as it rinses bacteria in the mouth, contains defense factors and minerals that strengthen dental surfaces. Reduced secretion of saliva may manifest itself as a variety of symptoms in the mouth. When the mucosa dry out, they feel sensitive and may ulcerate more easily. Often the mouth feels dry also when eating. Speech and swallowing may also become more difficult. When the antimicrobial effect of saliva weakens, the teeth and mucosa are more predisposed to infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Significantly increased dental decay may in fact be a symptom of reduced flow of saliva. When the rinsing effect of saliva is missing, acidic substances may also wear the teeth more easily and quickly. Changes in sense of taste, pain in the tongue, stinging and burning sensation in the mouth and difficulty in using removable prostheses may be associated with hyposalivation. Dry mouth may also be the cause of bad breath.
How is dry mouth treated?

As the risk of dental decay and inflammations of the mouth increases when the mouth becomes dry, particular attention should be paid to oral hygiene. Additional fluoride products can be used to fight tooth decay and home care can be intensified. An unpleasant feeling of dry mouth can be alleviated with artificial saliva, mouthwashes and moisturizing gels. Copious drinking of water and intensifying biting with e.g. chewing gum often help in dry mouth. Medicinal treatment is also necessary in some cases. Visit the dentist at shortened intervals to keep the situation under control.

What is Sjögren’s syndrome?

Sjögren’s syndrome is a relatively common connective tissue disease. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own gland cells. When the functioning of lacrimal and salivary glands weakens, the eyes and mouth become dry. The disease is far more common in women than in men. Sjögren’s syndrome often also occurs in the presence of rheumatoid arthritis.





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