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July 14, 2021 03:23pm
By Jill Murphy, Associate Editor
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common condition that results in your mouth feeling unusually dry due to decreased saliva production. Dry mouth can increase an individual’s risk of dental decay, infections, and periodontal disease because saliva aids in preventing tooth decay, limits bacterial growth, and washes away food particles. If left untreated, dry mouth can cause issues with speaking and swallowing. An estimated 29% to 57% of older adults experience some degree of xerostomia, but it can occur in anyone.
Signs and Symptoms
The severity of dry mouth varies from person to person, and common signs and symptoms include:
Causes and Common Triggers
A medical condition known as Sjögren’s syndrome is considered to be a major cause of dry mouth in many individuals. Moreover, a number of factors can cause or exacerbate dry mouth, including:
Testing and Diagnosis
If you experience persistent episodes of dry mouth, you should consult your doctor or dentist to determine the cause. Your doctor or dentist will examine your mouth and review your medical and medication history. If warranted, blood tests or other tests may be ordered as well. While dry mouth can occur in anyone, treatment will be based on the underlying cause.
Several steps can be taken to prevent the incidence of dry mouth, including:
Proper management of dry mouth can decrease the incidence of tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores, and infections. You can employ the following tips:
Treatment and Care
Treatment goals for dry mouth include identifying and managing the cause of dry mouth when possible, preventing tooth decay, and increasing the flow of saliva when possible. The treatment selected depends on the cause. If dry mouth is caused by your medication, your doctor may change or adjust your medication or recommend products such as a saliva substitute to moisturize your mouth. If the dry mouth is severe, your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat your dry mouth.
Homeopathic and Alternative Remedies
Some individuals may elect to use alternative remedies. While the clinical data regarding their effectiveness are limited, some health care professionals may suggest:
Various OTC artificial salvia substitutes and dry mouth relief products are available in the form of sprays, liquids, gels, mouthwashes, toothpaste, lozenges, and chewing gums to provide relief to individuals who experience dry mouth. Pharmacists can help you select the best formulation to meet your individual needs.
Resources for Patients
Resources for Pharmacists