What Is Xerostomia?

Symptoms of Xerostomia

Xerostomia, also called “dry mouth,” is a condition in which the glands in your mouth do not create adequate saliva to keep your mouth healthy. Read to learn about how saliva plays an important role in your body’s health and function.

How Do I Know If I Have Dry Mouth?

Xerostomia can be very uncomfortable. If you think you may have dry mouth, you may also experience the following:

  • Dry tongue
  • Cracking at the corners of your mouth and lips
  • Dryness in your nasal passages
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores

A good way to combat xerostomia is by staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water and eat water-rich fruits such as oranges, peaches, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon. You can also consult your doctor about an oral spray or rinse.

What Could Be Causing My Dry Mouth?

If you think you may have xerostomia, one of the following could be the cause:

  • Dehydration. You may also have a medical condition that leads to dehydration, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or excessive sweating.
  • Breathing with your mouth open can dry out your mouth. You can also wake up with bad breath and xerostomia if open-mouth breathe in your sleep.
  • Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or chewing tobacco.
  • Relaxants, sedatives, and other medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect.
  • Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy can have xerostomia as a side effect.
  • Injury or surgery resulting in nerve damage to the head or neck area.
  • Certain diseases and infections. Examples include HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or anemia.
  • Many elderly people experience dry mouth as they age. The cause can be a lack of proper nutrition, other health conditions, certain medications, or a combination of the above.

What Role Does Saliva Play In Keeping The Human Body Healthy?

Saliva is a clear liquid your body naturally produces. It is 98% water, but also contains electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, proteins, and antimicrobial compounds. To keep your mouth and the rest of your body healthy and functional, it does the following:

1. Saliva fights infection by regulating the bacteria and fungi in your mouth. One such example is thrush, which is a fungal infection of the mouth.

2. Saliva moves around in the mouth and sweeps away food debris leftover from eating. This movement helps fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

3. Saliva repairs the enamel in your teeth through the minerals found in the clear liquid, such as calcium, fluoride, and phosphorus.

4. Saliva aids the digestive process. By making the food you chew softer and wetter, it becomes easier to swallow. Saliva also contains an enzyme called amylase, which is beneficial for breaking down starch, maltose, and dextrose in foods.

How Can Xerostomia Potentially Harm My Dental Health?

When it comes to bacteria, infection, and fungi in the mouth, saliva plays a defensive role. Without adequate saliva production, your dental health and oral wellness can be affected in the following ways:

1. Staining and discoloration of teeth. The longer that food and drink remain on the surface of teeth, the more likely you are to experience teeth staining. This can be further exacerbated if your tooth enamel is eroded.

2. Erosion of tooth enamel. While you may already know that the minerals in saliva help repair tooth enamel, you may not know that they can also wash away harmful acids. When left on the surface of teeth due to dry mouth, acids can slowly weaken the protective enamel of your teeth.

3. Tooth decay. When there is not enough saliva production to sweep away plaque, leftover food particles, and acids from the surface of your teeth, bacterial growth would cause you to be more vulnerable to cavities.

4. Periodontal disease (gum disease). Plaque and tartar buildup can result in bacterial infection and inflammation of gum tissue. Gum disease would also increase your risk of tooth decay. When untreated, tooth decay and gum disease can reach the roots and supporting structure of teeth. This would potentially result in tooth loss.

If you are seeking dental care in Kamloops, consider Empire Dental. Empire Dental is proud to serve Kamloops and the surrounding neighborhoods in British Columbia. Call 250-374-7227 to ask about your options for dental hygiene and care, or schedule a visit today.

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