Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) and Dental Health
A dry mouth is a disease in which the mucous membranes in the oral cavity are not sufficiently moistened, which can cause a lot of discomfort. Common complaints include a feeling of a cotton mouth, constant thirst, dry throat and tongue, cracked lips, and bad taste and smell from the mouth. From time to time, each person can experience such symptoms for a short time, but if the feeling of dry mouth is permanent, this is a signal from the body about a more serious problem.
Saliva performs many important functions – protective and disinfecting properties of teeth and gums, remineralization of enamel, and the process of processing and eating. When tooth enamel does not receive proper washing with saliva, this increases the likelihood of developing carious processes and contributes to the reproduction of pathogenic flora. That is why xerostomia is a serious problem that requires comprehensive and immediate treatment.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
An obvious symptom of the disease is a chronic dry mouth that cannot be satisfied simply by drinking water. Due to the lack of moisture, the mucous membranes are easily covered with sores and crack. The lips dry out, crusts form on them, and jams appear in the corners. All this reduces the quality of life of patients and leads to psychological problems.
Since xerostomia is characterized primarily by a decrease in saliva production, the clinical manifestations of this disease include various negative consequences of dry mouth syndrome for the body.
So, for example, in the absence of a sufficient amount of saliva in the oral cavity, suppuration develops, the risk of developing fungal infections increases, and the perception of the taste of food changes. Oral xerostomia develops gradually:
- At the initial stage, the disease is not easy to detect: the submandibular and parotid salivary glands still secrete enough saliva, and some discomfort is observed only after a long conversation.
- During the second stage, less saliva begins to be produced and the stage of partial decompensation begins. The patient starts to feel dry mouth in the morning and during the day. At this time, eating is so difficult that the need for water becomes mandatory.
- The third degree is characterized by a deterioration in the condition. Eating and speech become painful, stomatitis, glossitis, and other lesions of the oral mucosa often appear erosion, ulcers, peeling and cracking of the lips, and sores in the corners of the mouth.
In addition to the main manifestations, convulsions, frequent sore throats, complaints about the mouth feels dry, and the development of chronic periodontitis are also observed. The tongue becomes bright red, and patients wearing removable dentures have problems with their operation.
Dry Mouth Causes
Most often, the unpleasant sensation of overdrying in the oral cavity is transient. However, in some patients, there is also a constant presence of discomfort associated with it for a long time. A very dry mouth at night and during the day can lead to a change in taste sensations, as well as redness of the tongue, the surface of which can become rough to the touch and hot. Why does dry mouth occur?
There are some cotton mouth causes, when the salivary glands produce a small amount of saliva, which is not enough for the basic processes of the body. Often this appears due to such reasons:
- Side effects from taking certain drugs that disrupt the salivary glands (for example, some antihistamines, analgesics, diuretics, and decongestants).
- Some diseases that lead to extreme dry mouth by affecting the salivary glands (runny nose, infection, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, vitamin deficiency, etc.)
- Radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, due to the negative effects of drugs and radiation.
- Frequent smoking in large quantities.
- Violation of nasal breathing due to the curvature of the nasal septum, dehydration of the body due to a large loss of fluid in case of diarrhea, vomiting, or fever.
- The presence of periodontitis and gingivitis, as well as an abundant amount of dental deposits.
Some groups of people often suffer from constant dry mouth, such as smokers who have a decrease in saliva production, and many older people who usually just drink too little and also often take medication. In addition, changes in hormonal balance during pregnancy and menopause affect the occurrence of xerostomia.
Other common dry mouth causes include excessive consumption of alcohol and coffee, lack of fluids, constant stress on the vocal cords, stress, and dry indoor air. If you experience discomfort associated with this disease for a long time, periodically or constantly, you should consult a doctor to identify its cause and deal with it.
What is the Danger of Dry Mouth
A dry mouth can occur intermittently due to stress or fatigue. However, if you observe this condition regularly, it is recommended to see a doctor to find out the causes and eliminate them. The systematic appearance of a dry mouth and tongue can be a sign of poor health.
Lack of saliva contributes to the formation of plaque and gum disease, which can have a very negative impact on oral health. Both caries and tooth loss are more likely in patients with poor saliva production. If the patient has dry gums, extra care should be taken to brush and floss regularly to prevent gum disease and cavities. It is important to overcome this disease, as a decrease in salivation increases the risk of gingivitis, oral infections and tooth decay.
The first and one of the most important steps in dry mouth treatment is diagnosis. The doctor surveys of the patient to find out exactly what drugs he takes on an ongoing basis, what kind of dental manipulations were performed on him, and so on. Diagnosis is carried out to confirm the disease and select the appropriate cure for dry mouth. To do this, dentists use sialometry – a technique that allows them to measure the amount of saliva secreted. X-ray of the salivary glands helps to confirm sialadenitis. A biopsy is prescribed to exclude malignant neoplasms. In addition, other diagnostic methods are used: visual examination, ultrasound, bacteriological analysis, and blood test.
During the initial diagnosis, the dentist receives the necessary information from the patient. Depending on the situation, additional xerostomia treatments may be prescribed, as well as a visit to the family doctor (therapist) and also narrow specialists is recommended. Further actions and appointments will depend on the established diagnosis. If the main factor of xerostomia is a disease of the body, complex dry mouth remedies are required. In the case of an adverse reaction to the medication, it is necessary to determine whether there are alternatives and how the condition can be alleviated.
Many dentists, together with general practitioners, recommend symptomatic therapy for correct treatment. This method is aimed at solving such problems:
- stimulation of the salivary glands to increase the amount of saliva;
- replacement of missing secretions – use artificial substitutes for saliva.
Symptomatic medication for dry mouth is an easy way to alleviate the patient's condition, but this measure is temporary. That is why it is so important to establish the origin of the disease. The healing process depends on several factors, however, in most cases (excluding cases of atrophy of the salivary glands), if all the doctor's recommendations are followed, the prognosis is favorable.
How to Prevent Excessive Dry Mouth
If xerostomia causes cannot be completely corrected, or can be corrected over time, there are several ways to increase the level of moisture in the mouth. Your dentist may recommend several special products, such as a saliva substitute, to help prevent excessive dry mouth. Mouth rinse with a liquid specially formulated to moisten the mouth can reduce the severity of the dryness symptom. You can also:
- drink clean water and sugar-free drinks more often;
- avoid carbonated water and drinks containing caffeine that causes sudden dry mouth;
- chewing gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candy, which stimulates salivation;
- use a humidifier.
It is important to remember that the simplest thing everyone can do for their dental health is to improve their drinking regimen, limit smoking and alcohol, eatless of too salty foods and simple carbohydrates, and review oral care products. In addition, proper oral hygiene is essential. It is necessary to brush your teeth twice a day, use dental floss and an irrigator. In the presence of xerostomia, pastes with a high content of calcium and fluorine are recommended.