Dry Mouth - Xerostomia

Xerostomia is defined as dry mouth due to reduced saliva flow.  Xerostomia is not a disease, but a symptom.  I estimate  20% of my dental practice patients have a decrease in salivary gland function.

Difficulty in speech, eating and swallowing can be caused by xerostomia.  It also leads to halitosis and a dramatic rise in the number of cavities as the protective effect of saliva’s remineralizing ability is decreased.

The major cause of Xerostomia in my patients is related to the many medications they are using.  Medications that list dry mouth as a side effect include:  antihypertensives, antidepressants, analgesics, tranquilizers, diuretics and antihistamines.

Treatment involves identifying correctable causes and removing them if possible.  Elimination of irritating alcoholic mouthwashes and minimizing the use of antihistamines are such examples.  In most cases, however, it is not possible to fully eliminate Xerostomia, and treatment involves relieving the symptoms and preventing tooth decay (caries).

Xerostomia Dental Decay

Xerostomia Dental Decay

Basic palliative treatment options include sipping water and using over-the-counter dry mouth products.  Click here to view my “Xerostomia Recommendations“.

Over the last 10 years, I have seen a significant increase in patients with Xerostomia.  The rapid progression of dental caries caused by dry mouth can be devastating and  create a dental cripple.

Vigilant home oral hygiene, extremely low sugar intake and avoidance of sticky, carbohydrate-rich foods are necessary to minimize caries risk.  Patients should be seen by the dental hygienist at least 3 times per year to minimize hard and soft tissue damage.