The dry mouth , clinically called xerostomia, is a disorder characterized by the salivary glands are not able to produce Saliva enough that the mouth remains wet. It is relatively common in the elderly or those taking certain medications. It is not usual that the cause is a disease of the salivary glands.
The decrease in saliva production can affect many different ways. In the mildest cases, you hardly feel a discomfort that does not interfere with your daily life. However, in the most serious cases, it can affect your sense of taste and even promote the development of gum disease.
What is saliva and what is its function?
Saliva is made up of 99% water . The remaining 1% are different substances of both inorganic and organic origin. It is produced by the salivary glands, responsible for their secretion 24 hours a day.
This fluid is of great importance to maintain the health of the mouth in perfect condition and, in addition, it intervenes in digestion. That is why it is so important to be attentive to any type of alteration in salivary flow. When the amount of saliva secreted is less than normal, it is called a dry mouth .
Functions of saliva
- The most important function of this fluid is to keep the mouth moist , thereby helping to swallow food properly.
- In addition, saliva has an antifungal and antibacterial function , thus helping to keep the mouth clean.
- Another of its relevant functions is to keep the pH in perfect balance , neutralizing the acids produced after each meal.
- One of the components of saliva is ptyalin , which initiates the digestion of starches in food.
- And finally, it should be noted that it greatly facilitates speech thanks to its moisturizing power in the mouth and pharynx.
What are the causes of dry mouth?
There are a number of medications, some of them over the counter, the main side effect of which is dry mouth. Some of the most common are those used to treat illnesses such as hypertension , anxiety, and depression. In addition, certain commonly used drugs, such as muscle relaxants and pain relievers, also cause dry mouth.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy , greatly affect saliva production. In the vast majority of cases it is something specific, so that once the treatment is finished, the flow returns to normal.
However, in those cases where radiation therapy is applied to the neck and head, the salivary glands can be permanently affected.
The dry and pasty mouth is relatively common in older people. This is a frequent disorder in the elderly due to several factors: continued use of some medications, poor diet and illnesses.
Injuries and conditions
Although it is not a very common cause, it can happen that as a result of an injury or surgery to the nerves of the head and / or neck , dry mouth develops.
Alcohol, tobacco and drugs
The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs for a long period of time can significantly increase the symptoms of dry and pasty mouth. In relation to drugs, there is what is known as a “methamphetamine mouth” , with numerous damage to the teeth and the mouth as a whole.
Symptoms of dry mouth
When you are not able to produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist, a number of symptoms appear . They can occur continuously, or on specific occasions.
The sign that occurs in almost 100% of cases is dry mouth, so you will notice it pasty and slimy . Also, the saliva is much thicker.
Another of the symptoms of this disorder is bad breath . In the most serious cases there may be others such as a sore throat due to dryness, grooves on the tongue, changes in the sense of taste, and even difficulty in wearing dentures.
If the symptoms of dry mouth get worse over time and interfere with your quality of life, you should see your doctor .
Diagnosis and treatment
If you notice the symptoms of dry mouth for a long time, it is recommended that you go to the doctor to establish a diagnosis. The first thing he will do is check what medications you are taking. As we have noted, some drugs cause this problem.
If the doctor considers it necessary, he will request an imaging exam to determine the state of your salivary glands . A common diagnostic test is one that measures the amount of saliva you produce.
When it comes to treatment, it largely depends on what is causing your dry mouth. If the cause is in any of the medications you take, the doctor will evaluate other drugs that you can take instead. In addition, he will recommend a product to moisturize your mouth .
When the production of saliva is insufficient for a long period of time, various complications can occur. That is why it is so important to go to the doctor.
- Dental cavities : one of the main complications from dry mouth is dental cavities. They are defined as damaged areas on the surface of teeth. If left untreated, they can lead to small openings, affecting deeper layers of the teeth. In the long term, it can be a cause of tooth loss.
- Gum disease: having a dry mouth for a long period of time can also promote the development of gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Sores in the mouth: due to the dryness in the oral cavity, sores may appear. They are small ulcers that can lead to infection.
- Oral Candidiasis: This is an infectious disease that develops from the accumulation of the Candida Albicans fungus in the mouth. The main symptom of this disorder are white plaques, located on the inside of the cheeks and on the tongue.
- Poor nutrition: dry mouth can cause problems with both chewing and swallowing and, consequently, poor nutrition.
Home remedies for dry mouth
If you suffer from dry mouth, there are a number of very effective home remedies to alleviate the symptoms.
Chamomile is one of the natural ingredients with the greatest number of benefits and health properties. It is an organic moisturizer that in addition to moistening the mouth, favors the restoration of the pH of saliva.
A highly recommended remedy if you suffer from injuries and cracks in your mouth due to dry mouth.
Apple cider vinegar contains a series of organic acids that help regulate the natural pH of the mouth while stimulating salivation.
To prepare this remedy you just have to add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of warm water. Drink twice a day until you notice that your mouth returns to normal moisture levels.
Green tea contains tannins, which help treat different mouth problems. They are compounds that provide great hydration while helping to regulate saliva production. In addition, green tea is a natural ingredient that prevents the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. You should drink two cups of tea a day to control symptoms.
Lemon acids stimulate the activity of the salivary glands. In addition, its properties promote fresh breath and stop the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth.
Squeeze a couple of lemons and add the lemons to 1 cup of boiling water. Then add 1 teaspoon of sugar and mix all the ingredients. Let it rest for a few minutes and take the remedy. You should do it late in the day, just before you go to sleep.
The ginger is a natural ingredient with a high content of gingerol, a substance that stimulates the activity of the salivary glands.
To prepare the remedy, add 1 teaspoon of grated ginger to 1 cup of boiling water. Let it rest for a few minutes until it hardens, strain and take taking small sips. You can drink up to two cups a day.
What to do if you have a dry mouth?
There are those who have continuous dry mouth. If this is your case, there are a series of measures and tips that are worth taking into consideration to improve your quality of life.
- Moist mouth: throughout the day, more or less constantly drink water to moisten the mouth. During the summer months you can also try sucking on ice chips.
- Breathing: although at first it may be difficult for you if you are not used to it, you must learn to breathe through your nose and not through your mouth.
- Humid air: at home, due to air conditioning in summer and heating in winter, the environment is often humid. It is best to use a humidifier, both during the day and at night.
- Mouthwash: When choosing a mouthwash, opt for one that does not contain alcohol.
- Lifestyle: and lastly, avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. They are two substances that cause dryness and irritation in the mouth.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.