Xerostomia is the medical term for the subjective complaint of dry mouth. The word reflects its Greek origins from "xeros"(dry) and "stoma"(mouth). It usually resuls from reduced or absent saliva flow. It can also be called pasties, cottonmouth, drooth, or des (like a desert). Why is this important? Well, saliva posesses many important functions, including antimicrobial activity, mechanical cleansing action, control of pH, removal of food debris from the oral cavity, remineralization, and maintaining the integrity of the oral mucosa (inner lining of the mouth).
Causes- Dry mouth can happen to anyone occasionally- for example when nervous or stressed. However, when dry mouth is persistant or severe, it may be a sign that the salivary glands aren't working properly. Many medications, as well as Diabetes, Parkinsons disease, and Sjogren's syndrome can effect the salivary glands. Other causes may include certain cancer treatmants and damage to the glands' nerve system. Remember xerostomia is a symptom, not a disease, so it is important to see your dentist or physician to find out why your mouth is dry.
Some other symptoms associated with xerostomia are... frequent thirst, red tongue, soreness in your mouth or corners of lips, difficulty swallowing, problems with taste, sore throat and hoarseness, bad breath, problems with speech, dry nasal passages, dry, cracked lips, increase in dental problems such as cavities and periodontal disease, diffiulty wearing dentures, or yeast infection of the mouth (candidiasis).
Treatments- The first mode of treating xerostomia involves finding any correctable underlying causes and fixing those if possible. Unfortunately, in most cases this is not possible, and treatment focuses on releiving the symptoms and preventing cavities. Patients should avoid the use of decongestants and anti-hstamines, and pay close attention to oral hygeine. Sipping lots of water, chewing xylitol containng gum and using a carboxymethyl cellulose saliva substitute as a mouthwash may help. Additionally the use of an enzyme product such as Biotene toothpaste, Biotene mouthwash, and Biotene moisturizing liquid has been proven to reduce the rate of recurrence of periodontal plaque resulting from dry mouth.