Dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia, is a condition in which there is a lack or absence of saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth affects 3 out of 10 adults in the U.S. Due to possible underlying medical conditions and the negative impact that an absence of saliva has on a person’s oral health, persistent dry mouth should be examined by a doctor.
The first and most important step in treating dry mouth is finding what is causing the decrease in saliva. There are many causes of dry mouth, ranging from dry mouth that is expected to occur for a short period of time to dry mouth that may be indicating a more serious problem in the body.
When most people think of dry mouth, they think back to a time when they experienced the stomach virus or drank too much alcohol. This is because a very common cause of dry mouth is dehydration. Dry mouth caused from dehydration is usually only short term but can be accompanied by many annoying symptoms such as hoarseness and chapped lips.
Another cause of dry mouth is a person’s lifestyle. If a person becomes overly stressed, nervous, or frightened, he or she may experience dry mouth. A person who continuously breathes or sleeps with his or her mouth open may also experience dry mouth.
Another lifestyle factor that may contribute to dry mouth is tobacco use. Smoking and chewing tobacco are drying agents that alter production of saliva. Other drying agents include caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods. It is best to avoid those foods when dry mouth occurs.
Medication is a common cause of dry mouth. Over 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications list “dry mouth” as a possible side effect.
Among those medications are analgesics, anti-infective medications, anti-inflammatories, erectile dysfunction medications, diuretics, anti-diarrheal medications, hormones, muscle relaxers, anti-depressants, antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, tranquilizers, and sleep aides. With medications only taken for a short period of time, many people may be able to ignore the dry mouth side effect.
However, for long term medications or severe dry mouth, a person should inform the prescribing doctor. There may be an alternate medication with less severe side effects. Many people believe that a cause of dry mouth is old age. This has been proven to be a myth.
Most sufferers of dry mouth are, in fact, older in age but are taking multiple medications, several of which may cause dry mouth. Medical conditions can also cause dry mouth. Dry mouth may be a sign of HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Anemia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Cystic Fibrosis, Mumps, Sjogren’s Syndrome, or a stroke.
It is very important to see a doctor for any of these medical conditions. Other medical related factors that can cause dry mouth are radiation treatment, chemotherapy, trauma to the mouth/throat, nerve damage to the neck/head, and some surgical procedures.
If left untreated, dry mouth may impair a person’s oral health, speech, digestion, taste, and ability to swallow. Persistent dry mouth should be treated by a doctor in order to find the cause and eliminate the symptoms.