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Xerostomia

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Xerostomia is a condition wherein the mouth becomes abnormally dry due to reduced secretion or complete absence of saliva. It’s a very annoying condition as it causes eating difficulties, speech problems and further development of dental disorders.

Symptoms of xerostomia

  • Dryness and stickiness inside the mouth
  • Frequent thirst
  • No saliva or production of thick and sticky saliva
  • Foul smell from mouth
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry and sore throat
  • Difficulty in speaking, chewing, tasting and swallowing food
  • Tingling sensation inside the mouth and tongue
  • Rawness in tongue

Causes of Xerostomia

  • Side effect of medicines for asthma, allergies, hypertension, obesity, acne, nerve disorders, mood enhancers, sedatives, muscle relaxants, urinary problems, mumps, etc. and many more.
  • Natural side effect of the aging process. This is why xerostomia is more common in old people
  • Salivary gland damage due to radiation therapy of head or neck and even during chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients.
  • Side effect of health disorders like Sjogren's syndrome, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, stroke, diarrhea,  etc.
  • Accidental nerve damage of the head and neck can also cause xerostomia
  • Smoking, chewing tobacco, lack of water intake (dehydration), excessive sweating, etc.
  • Surgical removal of the salivary glands

When to see your doctor?

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Check with your doctor if you observe the aforementioned symptoms, especially when you are under the influence of drugs and suffering from health disorder. If you fail to take care, excessive dryness inside mouth can lead to dental diseases. So be on the safe side.

Diagnosis of Xerostomia

Xerostomia is diagnosed by conducting a physical examination of the mouth based on the characteristic symptoms like that of excessive dryness.  The doctor will also check your general health, lifestyle and habits, medical and drug history.

The doctor may suggest an imaging test for the salivary gland and perform quantitative analysis of the saliva produced. Additional dental tests may be carried out to rule out dental decay.

Treatment for Xerostomia

The treatment of xerostomia is based on the underlying cause. If it has resulted from medicinal side effects then the dose may be adjusted or a different combination may be advised.

Saliva stimulants like Salagen are prescribed to restore normal quantity of saliva inside the mouth. Pilocarpine treatment is often carried out to treat xerostomia occurring from medical treatment and therapies. OTC artificial saliva substitutes may also be given by your doctor.

Lifestyle changes would be suggested to cure xerostomia which could be increased intake of water for the purpose of keeping the mouth moist, quitting tobacco and smoking, etc.

How to prevent Xerostomia

  • Chew sugar free chewing gum to enhance saliva inside your mouth
  • Keep drinking water throughout the day to check dehydration
  • Avoid drinking too many caffeine drinks
  • Use a fluoride rinse or fluoride toothpaste to protect your teeth
  • Stop chewing tobacco products and cut down on smoking
  • You can use a humidifier to balance the moisture in your room
  • Breathe consciously with your nose and not with your mouth open even while sleeping

Xerostomia goes away with treatment of the actual cause. Furthermore, take the precautions to avoid experiencing dryness symptoms in future.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 17, 2015