Dry mouth is a condition in which your mouth is unusually dry. Dry mouth is a common problem that may seem little more than a nuisance. But a dry mouth can affect both your enjoyment of food and the health of your teeth. The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (zeer-o-STO-me-uh).
A result of reduced or no saliva, dry mouth can lead to problems because saliva helps prevent tooth decay by limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.
Although the treatment depends on the cause, dry mouth is often a side effect of medication. Dry mouth may improve with an adjusted dosage or a new prescription.
You have three pairs of major salivary glands — parotid, sublingual and submandibular. Each gland has its own tube (duct) leading from the gland to the mouth. ...
If you're not producing enough saliva, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:
In women, dry mouth may result in lipstick adhering to the teeth.
When to see a doctor
Dry mouth has numerous causes, including:
Preparing for your appointment
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what you can expect from your doctor or dentist.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important. For dry mouth, some basic questions to ask your doctor may include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
To determine if you have dry mouth, your doctor or dentist likely will examine your mouth and review your medical history. Sometimes you'll need blood tests, imaging scans of your salivary glands or tests that measure how much saliva you produce to identify the cause.
Treatments and drugs
If your doctor believes medication to be the cause, he or she may adjust your dosage or switch you to another medication that doesn't cause a dry mouth. Your doctor may also consider prescribing pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac) to stimulate saliva production.
In severe cases, to prevent cavities, your dentist might fit you for coverings for your teeth filled with fluoride to wear at night.
Lifestyle and home remedies
When the cause of the problem either can't be determined or can't be resolved, the following tips may help improve your dry mouth symptoms and keep your teeth healthy:
Studies of acupuncture have shown that acupuncture may be helpful for people with dry mouth stemming from various causes, particularly from radiation therapy for cancer. This procedure involves the use of fine needles, lightly placed into various areas of the body, depending on your area of concern. While this treatment looks promising, researchers are still studying how this therapy works for xerostomia.
Last Updated: 2011-04-07
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