Is dry mouth serious?

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Todd A. Welch, DMD
Periodontics
Oral dryness, or xerostomia as it is also known, is the health condition in which due to malfunctioning, the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva.

However, people struggle quite rarely with such a condition in its toughest form, and the symptoms generally last for shorter periods of time.

Dry mouth is a condition which brings about bad breath, which is an even more frustrating condition. Saliva production is extremely important, and when there is not enough saliva in the mouth, bacteria and microbes multiply faster and may cause other unpleasant symptoms, such as the bad breath condition itself.

One of the main causes of xerostomia is dehydration. When the human organism does not receive enough fluids, the mouth will be dry too. This is why it is extremely important to hydrate properly, and make sure you drink at least 2 liters of fluids every day.

Dehydration may easily be a condition which is triggered by other underlying health complications, such as constant vomiting, diarrhea, sweating in excess or feverish states.

Then, yet another important cause of xerostomia might be factors such as smoking, or chewing tobacco regularly.

Cigarettes contain chemical ingredients that actually hinder saliva production; therefore, smokers can experience quite frequently xerostomia.

People who are undergoing some medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, might also experience short term or long term oral dryness. It has been scientifically proven that these invasive medical procedures actually destroy the salivary glands.

Yet another quite common side effect of chemotherapy is frequent vomiting, and this might bring about xerostomia as well.

Prescription medication, such as the psychotic drugs might also have as side effect the oral dryness condition. These drugs are specifically prescribed for patients struggling with conditions such as Bipolar Disorder or different stages of depression.

The main ingredients in these drugs affect the secretions and glands of the human organism, hence the possibility of struggling with oral dryness when taking these types of prescription medications.

Oral dryness can also be a side effect of health conditions such as diabetes, Mumps Hypertension, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease or Sjorgen’s syndrome.

Yes! Very much so! People with dry mouths are very susceptible to rapid decay. To make it worse I see many people who suck on sugar containing sour candies to stimulate saliva. The sugar and citric acid in the candy combined with no healing saliva equals major cavities. The best solution is to drink lots of water, use oral moisturizing products, use high fluoride containing toothpastes/rinses and talk to your physician about which medications are contributing to your problem. Without major intervention you may lose your teeth. Google Biotene and CariFree. These are very good products.

Everyone’s mouth can be dry sometimes, but if you feel like your mouth is always dry, it may be time to seek treatment. A dentist will check your teeth for signs of decay that can result from decreased salivary flow. A physician will test for any underlying disease or conditions that may be causing your dry mouth.  

Having a dry mouth is not itself serious but taking care of your teeth and gums and regular dental visits are important when living with dry mouth. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common. Patients using oral inhalers for asthma often develop oral candidiasis, an oral fungal infection, and are encouraged to rinse their mouths with water after using the inhaler. Tell your dentist what medications you are taking and any other information about your health that may help identify a solution.

Chronic dry mouth, or xerostomia, is not very serious. However, left untreated, it can cause increased instances of dental decay, difficulty eating, or even difficulty talking. If you have chronic dry mouth, see your doctor to avoid lasting effects.

Continue Learning about Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.