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Dry Mouth

by Adriana Jaramillo DDS & Carlos A Jaramillo IV

What is Xerostomia?

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a condition that affects thousands of individuals, and in particular the elderly. It is not itself a disease, but a symptom. A patient’s salivary glads decrease or altogether stop the production of saliva. This may cause a feeling of unquenchable thirst, a burning sensation on the tongue, or dry and cracked lips. Xerostomia is a condition different than what a healthy person will experience occasionally due to thirst.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth may be caused by systemic diseases such as rheumatoid conditions, a dysfunctional immune system, and hormonal or neurological disorders. Aging is a contributing factor, but not a cause of dry mouth.

Dry mouth can also be caused by radiation therapy of the head and neck, surgical removal of the salivary glands, dehydration and certain medications such as decongestants, diuretics, antihypertensives, antidepressants and antihistamines.

What are the Effects of Dry Mouth?

Saliva serves several important functions, among them cleansing the mouth and maintaining comfortable levels of moisture. Inadequate levels of saliva increase an individual’s risk of cavities and periodontal disease, irritates the soft tissues of the mouth, causes bad breath, affects speech, alters taste sensation, and makes swallowing more difficult.

How is Dry Mouth Controlled?

The adverse affects of dry mouth can be controlled, but require extra care. If you are suffering from dry mouth, Dr. Jaramillo can help you by providing an appropriate prophylaxis routine. You should also follow these basic recommendations:

  • Brush and floss after every meal and before bed
  • Drink plenty of water /Use water to moisten mouth
  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes
  • Use a humidifier
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, sodas, caffein and foods high in sugar content.
  • Some suggest that acupuncture may provide relief.
  • Some patients may be prescribed a drug to stimulate saliva secretion. This therapy however, is not for everyone.

For more information visit:

  • Academy of General Dentistry: Dry Mouth
  • American Dental Association: Bad breath | Dry Mouth | Saliva |
  • Mayo Clinic: Dry Mouth | Dry Mouth in older adults: Causes and treatments
  • Simple Steps: Xerostomia
  • Wisconsin Dental Association: Xerostomia

For additional dental health resources visit our index of resources


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