Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) and its Prevalence

Today's post is authored by Oral Health Project Group member, Nasheen Nizamuddin.

Dry mouth is a symptom in oral health that is prevalent at all age levels despite being most ubiquitous in elderly people. It is a condition that affects the amount of saliva in our mouth and is really bothersome to those affected by it. Saliva is imperative in a human’s day to day functions. It is necessary to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food and also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth (WebMD). It limits bacterial growth by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria which helps prevent frequent tooth decay. Lastly, it enhances the ability to, "taste and makes it easier to swallow. (WebMD)" The condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth wet is known as xerostomia or Dry mouth. Dry mouth can typically happen when a person is nervous or stressed. It causes discomfort and can interfere with swallowing and speech, it can also cause, "halitosis and impair oral hygiene by causing a decrease in oral pH and an increase in bacterial growth." If left untreated, long-standing xerostomia can result in severe tooth decay and oral candidiasis. Certain symptoms that are associated with dry mouth include: sticky dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, split skin, burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and tongue, dry nasal passage, and tooth decay.  

Over-the-counter drugs usually have side-effects that lead to dry-mouth and is one of the leading causes of this ailment. Dryness-inducing medications are fairly prevalent in the United States. In fact, 63% of the generics and 52% of the brand name drugs were cause this ailing side effect. Drugs used to treat depression, nerve pain, and anxiety are more likely to causes dry mouth. Cancer therapy, nerve damage, and smoking or chewing tobacco can also increase the symptoms.  

It is important to visit your dentist regularly, especially if you are experiencing any symptoms ofxerostomia. There are several treatments that can help prevent the causes of xerostomia such as: "sipping and drinking water throughout the day, chew sugarless gum; use over-the-counter salivary substitutes or oral moisturizers; using mouth rinses that contain no alcohol; avoid certain salty and dry foods and drinks that contain high sugar content and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use. (WebMd)"

References:

"Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)." Dry Mouth (Xerostomia). N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.   http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/DryMouth/

"Dry Mouth Causes and Treatments." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-dry-mouth

"Dry Mouth." - Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016.
 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/basics/definition/con-20035499

"Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)." Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2016. http://www.dentanet.org.uk/public/xerostomia.html

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