Xerostomia. Xero What?!
Do you ever wake up in the morning feel like you have to peel your tongue off the roof of your mouth? Does your mouth often feel as dry as the Sahara desert? Do you feel the urge to drink lots of water? You may have xerostomia. Xero what?? Don’t panic! Xerostomia (zero-STOW-me-uh) is just the fancy medical word, for dry mouth, which comes from the Greek “xeros” (dry) + “stoma” (mouth).
Dry mouth can make it hard for you to swallow, chew your food, or speak clearly. Dry mouth can cause tooth decay very quickly. Dry mouth can also contribute to bad breath, and sometimes others will notice the stale odor. Most often, dry mouth is the result of a decrease in saliva produced by the glands in your mouth (salivary glands), and it’s frequently a side effect of hundreds of medications and some diseases. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.
Dry mouth is a common problem that can range from being merely a nuisance to something that has a major impact on your general health and the health of your teeth, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food.
Dry Mouth Symptoms
If you’re not producing enough saliva, you may notice these signs and symptoms all or most of the time:
- Feeling like your mouth is stuffed with cotton balls.
- Burning feeling in mouth or tongue and sometimes tongue feels like shoe leather.
- Saliva that feels like glue
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing
- A changed sense of taste
- More frequent tooth decay
- Gum irritation and gum disease
- Problems wearing dentures
- In women, dry mouth may result in lipstick sticking to the teeth
What causes dry mouth?
There are several things that can cause your mouth to feel as dry as a desert. People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. Because of this, there might not be enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. There are several reasons why these salivary glands might not work right.
- Side effects of some medicines. More than 400 medicines can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. For example, medicines for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.
- Drug use. Recreational drugs such as methamphetamines, cannabis, hallucinogens, or heroin can cause dry mouth.
- Systemic Diseases. Some diseases affect the salivary glands. Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can all cause dry mouth.
- Radiation therapy. The salivary glands can be damaged if they are exposed to radiation during cancer treatment.
- Chemotherapy. Drugs used to treat cancer can make saliva thicker, causing the mouth to feel dry.
- Nerve damage. Injury to the head or neck can damage the nerves that tell salivary glands to make saliva.
- Tobacco use. Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms.There is no need to have xerophobia (the fear of dryness) when it comes to xerostomia. Here are some tips that may help alleviate dry mouth symptoms.
Dry Mouth Comfort Tips
There is no need to have xerophobia (the fear of dryness) when it comes to xerostomia. Here are some tips that may help alleviate dry mouth symptoms.
- Sip water throughout the day and night and carry a water bottle with you at all times.
- Drink sugarless drinks and avoid carbonated beverages.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate salivary flow.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Both alcoholic beverages and smoking dry out the mouth and make you more susceptible to gum diseases and oral cancer.
- Select an alcohol-free mouth rinse if you’re in the habit of using a mouthwash. Read the label and make sure alcohol is not listed as an ingredient.
If you have any questions, or if you feel you have symptoms of dry mouth, and would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Griffin, please do not hesitate call us at 972-242-2155. Or, you can use the “Ask Dr. Griffin” form at the top of this page.