EIGHT STEPS TO DENTAL HEALTH
YOUR DENTAL VISIT
BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
ROOT CANAL TREATMENT
SCALING AND ROOT PLANING
TMJ AND TMDS
ZOOM 2 WHITENING
Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
What Is It?
Xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth, is a symptom that often occurs when saliva production decreases or stops. It is not a disease, but can be a symptom of many other diseases and conditions.
Saliva lubricates your mouth and helps you to swallow and taste food. Saliva also is a natural cavity fighter because it washes away food and plaque from tooth surfaces, buffers acids in the mouth and remineralizes teeth. When saliva production decreases and you experience dry mouth, your teeth and gums are at increased risk of tooth decay. People with xerostomia are more likely to experience illnesses that affect the soft tissues of the mouth, including oral yeast infections (thrush). In addition, your diet may be affected because you cannot taste food as you normally would.
Xerostomia may occur for several reasons. Some common causes include:
Although xerostomia is a symptom in itself, it may occur with other associated symptoms, including:
Xerostomia is a symptom, not a disease. Tell your dentist and hygienist about your dry mouth. Your dentist will ask you about your medical history and will ask you to describe your symptoms. He or she will ask about any nonprescription drugs, herbal remedies or prescription medications you are taking. He or she also will examine your mouth to assess salivary flow, cracks and sores, and will look for signs of cavities and gum disease.
Although the symptoms of xerostomia can be treated, the condition often remains a problem as long as its cause (medication, medical illness, dehydration) remains. The condition is permanent in cases in which the salivary glands have been removed or destroyed. Radiation therapy to treat cancer in the head or neck also may permanently affect the ability of the salivary glands to produce saliva.
To prevent dry mouth, avoid things that cause it, if possible. For example, if dry mouth is related to a medication, your physician may be able to try a less-drying medication, depending on your condition. You can also take steps to prevent or manage the symptoms associated with dry mouth.
The treatment of xerostomia focuses on three areas: relieving symptoms, preventing tooth decay and increasing the flow of saliva, if possible. Your doctor will recommend that you practice good dental hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and frequent topical fluoride treatments. Your physician may work in partnership with your dentist to manage your condition.
Treatment is based on the severity of your problem and the cause of your dry mouth. Fluoride treatments can be prescribed to help prevent cavities. Artificial saliva products are available over the counter in rinse, spray and gel formulations. Depending on your medical condition and diagnosis, a doctor may prescribe a drug that causes more saliva to be released.
To relieve your symptoms, try the following:
When To Call A Professional
Dry mouth symptoms can vary greatly. Only your dentist or physician can truly evaluate your mouth for xerostomia. If you feel the symptoms, discuss them with your dentist. Untreated xerostomia can lead to the rapid development of dental decay in an otherwise healthy mouth. If you have to sip water frequently throughout the day and need liquids to swallow dry foods, you should discuss this with your dentist.
With proper treatment, most patients with dry mouth can regain oral comfort and the ability to speak and taste food. With good dental hygiene, people with xerostomia can reduce dental problems associated with dry mouth.
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 440-2500
Fax: (312) 440-2800
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