XEROSTOMIA

Introduction:

Xerostomia (say “zeer-oh-STOH-mee-uh”), also called dry mouth, is a condition that occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Saliva is needed to keep the mouth moist and to help protect teeth from decay. Xerostomia can make eating, talking, and even swallowing difficult.

Xerostomia is a symptom, not a disease. It can be caused by many different conditions, diseases, and medications. Xerostomia can also be a side effect of radiation therapy to the head and neck area. If you have xerostomia, your mouth may feel dry, sticky, or tight. Your tongue may feel thick and furry. You may have trouble swallowing, speaking, or tasting food. You may also have bad breath.

Xerostomia can lead to other problems, such as:

  • Cavities (tooth decay)
  • Mouth infections
  • Difficulty wearing dentures

What causes Xerostomia?

There are many possible causes of xerostomia. These include:

  • Diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes
  • Medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, and painkillers
  • Radiotherapy (treatment with high-energy rays) to the head and neck area
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Salivary gland problems, such as infection or blockage of the salivary glands
  • Dry air (such as in a desert climate) or low humidity (such as in an airplane)

What are the symptoms of Xerostomia?

The main symptom of xerostomia is a dry feeling in the mouth. Other symptoms may include:

  • A sticky, dry feeling on the tongue
  • Thirst
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, or tasting food
  • Hoarseness
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • A burning feeling in the mouth
  • A dry, red, or cracked tongue
  • Dryness of the lips
  • Mouth infections
  • Difficulty wearing dentures

How is Xerostomia diagnosed?

Your dentist or doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. He or she will also give you a physical exam.

Tests that may be done to diagnose xerostomia or its causes include:

  • Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) or tests for Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Salivary gland function tests
  • Tests of the salivary glands, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI
  • Biopsy of the salivary glands

How is Xerostomia treated?

There is no cure for xerostomia. Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. If your xerostomia is caused by a medication, your dentist or doctor may suggest changing the medication or dosage. If xerostomia is caused by a disease, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, treatment will focus on the underlying disease.

There are many things you can do at home to help relieve the symptoms of xerostomia. These include:

  • Sucking on sugar-free hard candy or chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow
  • Drinking water often
  • Using artificial saliva products, such as mouth sprays, gels, or lozenges
  • Avoiding mouthwashes with alcohol
  • Wearing a humidifier at night
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
  • Taking short showers or baths rather than long soaks in the tub
  • Breathing through your nose rather than your mouth

Your dentist or doctor may also recommend medications to help relieve xerostomia. These include:

  • Saliva substitutes, such as artificial saliva products
  • Stimulants, such as pilocarpine (Salagen) and cevimeline (Evoxac)
  • Anticholinergics, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan), to help reduce mouth dryness
  • Aluminum hydroxide gel (Gaviscon), to help reduce heartburn and GERD symptoms

In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat the underlying cause of xerostomia. For example, surgery may be done to remove a blockage in the salivary glands.

What are the complications of Xerostomia?

Xerostomia can lead to other problems, such as:

  • Cavities (tooth decay)
  • Mouth infections
  • Difficulty wearing dentures
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food
  • Social and emotional problems, such as embarrassment and depression

Conclusion:

Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, is a condition that occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth. Xerostomia can be caused by many things, such as medications, diseases, radiotherapy, stress, smoking, and mouth breathing. There is no cure for xerostomia, but there are many things that can be done to relieve the symptoms. Home treatment measures include sucking on sugar-free hard candy or chewing sugar-free gum, drinking water often, and using artificial saliva products.

Medications that may be prescribed by your dentist or doctor include saliva substitutes, stimulants, anticholinergics, and aluminum hydroxide gel. In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat the underlying cause of xerostomia. Xerostomia can lead to other problems, such as cavities, mouth infections, difficulty wearing dentures, difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food, and social and emotional problems.