Dry mouth—also called xerostomia—is caused by an inadequate saliva flow. It is not a disease, but a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics and many others.
Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay and erosion. Although it is composed of 98% water, it contains many important substances, including electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds and various enzymes that maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. A healthy saliva flow washes away food and has the ability to clear acids from teeth surfaces.
It also neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, trouble speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages. In some cases, dry mouth can be an indicator of Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own moisture-producing glands, the tear-secreting and salivary glands as well as other organs.
Without saliva, significant decay can occur. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses. If you are experiencing problems with dry mouth the doctors and hygienists at 12 Oaks Dental can recommend various methods to help.