Dry Mouth: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Dry mouth, clinically called xerostomia, is a disorder characterized in that the salivary glands are not capable of producing enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. It is relatively common in the elderly or in those who take certain medications. It is not usual for the cause to be a disease of the salivary glands.

The decrease in saliva production can affect in many different ways. In the milder cases you hardly feel a nuisance that does not interfere with your daily life. However, in the most serious, it can affect your sense of taste and even favor the development of gum disease.

What is saliva and what is its function?

Saliva is made up of 99% water. The remaining 1% are different substances of both inorganic and organic origin. It is produced by the salivary glands, responsible for its segregation 24 hours a day.

This fluid is of great importance to maintain the health of the mouth in perfect condition and, in addition, it is involved in digestion. That is why it is so important to be aware of any type of alteration in salivary flow. When the amount of segregated saliva is less than normal, it speaks of a dry mouth.

Saliva Functions

The most important function of this fluid is to keep the mouth moist, thereby helping to swallow food properly.

In addition, saliva plays an antifungal and antibacterial function, thus favoring that the mouth be kept clean.

Another of its relevant functions is to keep the pH in perfect balance, neutralizing the acids produced after each meal.

One of the components of saliva is ptialin, which starts the digestion of food starches.

And finally, it should be noted that it greatly facilitates speech thanks to its moisturizing power in the mouth and pharynx.

What are the causes of dry mouth?

Medicines

There are a number of medications, some of them over the counter, whose main side effect is dry mouth. Some of the most common are those used to treat diseases such as hypertension, anxiety and depression. In addition, certain drugs of habitual use, such as muscle relaxants and analgesics also produce dry mouth.

Medical treatments

Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, greatly affect saliva production. In the vast majority of cases, it is somewhat timely, so once the treatment is finished, the flow becomes normal again.

However, in those cases where radiotherapy is applied to the neck and head, the salivary glands can be permanently affected.

Aging

Dry and doughy mouth is relatively common in older people. This is a common disorder in the elderly due to several factors: continued use of some medications, poor diet and diseases.

Injuries and conditions

Although it is not a very frequent cause, it may happen that dryness in the mouth develops due to an injury or surgery on the nerves of the head and / or neck.

Alcohol, tobacco and drugs

The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs for a long period of time can significantly increase the symptoms of dry and pasty mouth. In relation to drugs, there is what is known as "methamphetamine mouth", with numerous damage to the teeth and mouth as a whole.

Symptoms of dry mouth

When you are not able to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist, a series of symptoms appear. They can occur continuously, or occasionally.

The signal that occurs in almost 100% of cases is dry mouth, so you will notice it pasty and viscous. In addition, saliva is much thicker.

Another of the symptoms of this disorder is bad breath. In more severe cases, others can occur such as a sore throat due to dryness, grooves in the tongue, changes in the sense of taste, and even difficulty in using dentures.

If the symptoms of dry mouth get worse over time and interfere with your quality of life, you should consult your doctor.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you notice the symptoms of dry mouth for a long time, it is recommended that you go to the doctor to establish a diagnosis. The first thing you will do is review what medications you are taking. As we have pointed out, some drugs cause this problem.

If the doctor considers it necessary, he will request an imaging test to determine the state of your salivary glands. A frequent diagnostic test is the one that measures the amount of saliva you produce.

What to do if your mouth is dry?

There are those who have dry mouth continuously. If this is your case, there are a number of measures and tips that are worth taking into consideration to improve your quality of life.

Moist mouth: throughout the day more or less constantly drink water to moisten the mouth. During the summer months you can also try to suck ice chips.

Breathing: although at first you find it complicated if you are not accustomed, you must learn to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth.

Humid air: at home, due to air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, the environment is often humid. It is best that you use a humidifier, both day and night.

Mouthwash: When choosing a mouthwash, opt for one that does not contain alcohol.

Lifestyle: and finally, avoid as much as possible caffeine and alcohol.

They are two substances that cause dryness and irritation in the mouth.

What to do if your mouth is dry?

There are those who have dry mouth continuously. If this is your case, there are a number of measures and tips that are worth taking into consideration to improve your quality of life.

Moist mouth: throughout the day more or less constantly drink water to moisten the mouth. During the summer months you can also try to suck ice chips.

Breathing: although at first you find it complicated if you are not accustomed, you must learn to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth.

Humid air: at home, due to air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, the environment is often humid. It is best that you use a humidifier, both day and night.

Mouthwash: When choosing a mouthwash, opt for one that does not contain alcohol.

Lifestyle: and finally, avoid as much as possible caffeine and alcohol.

They are two substances that cause dryness and irritation in the mouth.

What to do if your mouth is dry?

There are those who have dry mouth continuously. If this is your case, there are a number of measures and tips that are worth taking into consideration to improve your quality of life.

Moist mouth: throughout the day more or less constantly drink water to moisten the mouth. During the summer months you can also try to suck ice chips.

Breathing: although at first you find it complicated if you are not accustomed, you must learn to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth.

Humid air: at home, due to air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, the environment is often humid. It is best that you use a humidifier, both day and night.

Mouthwash: When choosing a mouthwash, opt for one that does not contain alcohol.

Lifestyle: and finally, avoid as much as possible caffeine and alcohol. They are two substances that cause dryness and irritation in the mouth.