Saliva is an essential part of a healthy mouth. Saliva provides comfort and helps protect the oral tissues against ulcers, sores, and other movements that accompany normal eating and speaking due to its lubricating properties.
Saliva helps defend against tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth and washing away food particles as it moistens and cleanses the mouth. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to chew and swallow food. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion. When saliva volume is insufficient, all of these functions are impaired.
When there is decreased volume of saliva in your mouth, it refers to a condition known as Dry mouth. Individuals with dry mouth don’t have enough saliva to keep the mouth wet as there is reduced or absent saliva flow.
The mouth becomes dry and uncomfortable and it can make it difficult to speak, eat, and digest food. It can also cause bad breath, increase bacteria in the mouth and cause tooth decay in the long term.
This is often the result of dehydration and you don’t have enough fluid in your body to produce the saliva you need.
It’s normal if you have a dry mouth when you are dehydrated or feeling anxious or nervous, but a persistently dry mouth can be a sign of an underlying problem.
Frequently, it may manifest mostly at night during sleeping, especially in mouth-breathers.
Extreme dry mouth and salivary gland dysfunction can lead to permanent mouth and throat disorders and can impair a person’s quality of life.
Dry mouth is being addressed by the dentists in reputed dental clinics in Delhi and patients are being educated thoroughly about the ways to restore mouth moisture and to improve saliva flow.
A dry mouth can sometimes be caused by an underlying problem or medical condition, such as:
- Side effects of certain medications- Dry mouth is a common side effect of many different medicines including antidepressants, decongestants, hypertensive medications, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and diuretics.
- Side effects of certain medical conditions- If a major salivary duct becomes blocked such as from a salivary stone or infection, Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and mumps.
- Side effect of certain medical treatments- Damage to the glands that produce saliva, for example, from radiation to the head and neck and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, can reduce the amount of saliva produced as this can cause salivary glands to become inflamed.
- Nerve damage or trauma to the head and neck area can affect the nerves that provide sensation to the mouth and result in a feeling of dry mouth.
- Often occur during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to dehydration and hormonal changes.
- Conditions that lead to dehydration, such as fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood loss and burns can cause dry mouth.
- Removal of the salivary glands.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco can aggravate dry mouth and affect production of saliva. Continuously breathing with your mouth open can also contribute to the problem.
Many older people experience dry mouth as they age. Chemotherapy drugs can change the nature of saliva and the amount of saliva produced. This may be temporary or permanent depending on the radiation dose and area treated.
Dentists in India not only counsel the patients with dry mouth but systematically follow up so that they can evaluate the progress they are making.
What causes a dry mouth?
Saliva plays an important role in keeping our mouth healthy. If you have a dry mouth, you may experience a number of other problems too, such as:
- a burning sensation or soreness in your mouth
- dry lips
- bad breath (halitosis)
- a decreased or altered sense of taste
- recurrent mouth infections, such as oral thrush
- tooth decay and gum disease
- difficulty speaking, eating or swallowing
What are the symptoms of dry mouth?
Common symptoms of dry mouth include:
- A sticky dry feeling in the mouth
- Frequent thirst
- Saliva that seems thick and stringy
- Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
- A dry feeling in the throat
- A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
- A dry, grooved or raw tongue
- Difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing
- Bad breath
- Problems wearing dentures
- Diminished or altered sense of taste
- Fungal infections in the mouth, such as thrush
- Increased need to drink water, especially at night
- More frequent gum disease
- More tooth decay and plaque
- Problems wearing dentures – problems with denture retention, denture sores, and the tongue sticking to the palate
It’s important to maintain good oral hygiene if you have a dry mouth to reduce the risk of dental problems. You should see a dentist regularly, so they can identify and treat any problems at an early stage. Dentists in Delhi are regularly counseling patients about how to maintain good dental health and are reminding patients for their regular dental cleanings and checkups.
Let your dentist know about any other symptoms you are experiencing with dry mouth and any treatments you are having, as this will help them work out why your mouth is dry.
Posted by- Dr Shriya