IMPORTANCE OF SALIVA:Xerostomia, the medical term for dry mouth, is not only annoying but can also lead to a host of other issues. Saliva is important for several reasons. When a person is experiencing a dry mouth, then they are not producing enough saliva needed for a healthy mouth. Saliva helps to prevent tooth decay by washing away excess food particles that may be in the mouth or teeth, enhances the ability to taste, makes it easier to swallow food, and the enzymes found in saliva also help food digestion. So other than dental problems, dry mouth can make the process of eating and digesting food more difficult.
CAUSES: Although some people naturally produce less saliva than others, a persistent dry mouth can be the result of several different things.
1. Many different medications can cause dry mouth including anxiety and depression medications, drugs for urinary incontinence, and high blood pressure medications.
2. Tobacco use such as smoking can cause dry mouth.
3. Health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, HIV, and diabetes can cause dry mouth either because of the disease itself or because of the treatments used to help these conditions.
SYMPTOMS: If a person is experiencing dry mouth they may have more irritating symptoms than just cavities. Some more common symptoms associated with dry mouth include:
- Bad breath
- Cracked lips, sores, or split skin at the corners of the mouth
- Sore throat or difficulty speaking
STOP DRY MOUTH: If the dry mouth is severe and is the result of a particular medication then your doctor may be able to switch the medications for something that will not cause a dry mouth. However, for those who experience dry mouth due to some other reason or do not want to switch medications there are other easy remedies to prevent a dry mouth. For one, stop smoking or chewing tobacco since it can cause dry mouth or make an already dry mouth worse. Try to avoid drinking too much caffeine as that can cause dry mouth too. Drinking water throughout the day, chewing no-sugar gum, and using a fluoride rinse or toothpaste each night can also help boost saliva production and prevent the symptoms of a dry mouth. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
* For More Information, Contact:
Denise Parrish, Clinical Affairs
Georgia Health Sciences University