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Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a sensation of dryness in the mouth. It is a common condition which can be associated with a change in quality as well as quantity of saliva. Everyone can experience dry mouth when a they are nervous or stressed but an ongoing dry mouth can be uncomfortable and can lead to mouth infections and dental decay. Dry mouth can also be a sign of certain medical conditions.

Signs and Symptoms

    • Thick and string saliva
    • Continual need for drinks
    • Dry and cracked lips

    • Dry, rough and burring tongue
    • Difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking
    • Bad breath

    • Mouth or gum infections (e.g., oral thrush)
    • Increased plaque
    • Increased decay in the tooth

Cause

Common causes of dry mouth include drug therapy, systemic disease, and radiation therapy.

  • Medications

    • Antipsychotics
    • Anticonvulsants
    • Tricyclic Antidepressants
    • Diuretics
    • Antihistamines
    • Beta Blockers

  • Medical Conditions

    • Sjogren’s Syndrome, HIV
    • Hypothyroidism, Lupus, Diabetes
    • Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Parkinson’s Disease
    • .
    • .

  • Other factors

    • Cancer chemotherapy
    • Radiotherapy (particularly radiation to the head and neck)
    • Dehydration (From Burn, Vomit and Diarrhoea)
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol and Caffeine intake

Prevention

Good hydration and nutrition are vital to help decrease the severity of dry mouth. Avoiding and reducing the dosage of drugs that are associated with Xerostomia, particularly in older patients, is useful. Regular oral and dental hygiene are important in preventing dental and mouth infections. Stopping smoking and limiting alcohol and caffeine drinks can also help to prevent dry mouth and the consequences of dry mouth.

Treatment and Management

Determining and correcting the underlying cause of dry mouth is the best way to treat xerostomia however, this may not always be possible.

 

Dry mouth can be managed by stimulating salivary gland. This can be achieved by sucking sugarless loollies or chewing gum. Medications may also be prescribed which can stimulate saliva production and increase its flow, but they can have many adverse effects and contraindications. Please check with your doctor.

 

Saliva substitutes and lubricants such as spray, mouthwashes, gels and liquids are available in many pharmacies. These can be used as often as needed to help manage symptoms of dry mouth.

What can you do?

    • Consult your physician and pharmacist about managing the effects of medication and medical treatments
    • Sip water and sugar free drinks regularly
    • Eat moist food (e.g., use gravies, sauces)

    • Suck on sugar free or hard candy to stimulate saliva flow (e.g, cinnamon or mint-flavoured candies).
    • Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol or peroxides
    • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake

    • Do not smoke or use tobacco
    • Use humidifier if air is dry particularly at night
    • Practice oral and dental hygiene regularly

If you think you have dry mouth consult your doctor, dentist or pharmacist.

 

If commercial products or current medications are not effectively treating or managing your symptoms, we can work with your GP to tailor the therapy to your needs.

 

Get some free advice, specific to your condition below


Click to take questionnaire

Please rate the following questions from 1 to 10. Where 1 is least severe and 10 is most severe.

1. Rate the discomfort of your dentures due to dryness (if you do not wear dentures, please check )

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2. Rate the difficulty you experience in speaking due to dryness of your mouth and tongue:

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3. Rate the difficulty you experience in chewing food due to dryness:

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4. Rate the difficulty you experience in swallowing food due to dryness:

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5. Rate the dryness your mouth feels when eating a meal:

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6. Rate the dryness in your mouth while not eating or chewing:

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7. Rate the frequency of sipping liquids to aid swallowing food:

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8. Rate the frequency of fluid intake required for oral comfort when not eating:

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9. Rate the frequency of sleeping problems due to dryness:

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References

  1. Greenspan, D 1996, ‘Xerostomia: Diagnosis and Management’, Modern Medicine Network, vol. 10, no. 3.
  2. National Institutes of Health 2014, Dry Mouth, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Viewed 16 January 2018, < >.
  3. Olver, IN 2006, ‘erostomia: a common adverse effect of drugs and radiation’, Australian Prescriber, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 97-98.
  4. Joanna, ND &Thomson, WM 2015, ‘Dry mouth – An overview’ Singapore Dental Journal, 36, no., PP. 12-17