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Dry Mouth

What is Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)?

Dry mouth occurs as the result of a decrease in the amount of saliva in your mouth. It may occur for several reasons, including: dehydration, as a side effect of medications, lifestyle habits like smoking, or a symptom of medical conditions such as the autoimmune disorder Sjögren’s syndrome.

What can cause it?

Many people commonly experience dry mouth because of dehydration and a lack of water throughout the day. Tea and coffee consumption may contribute as these drinks are diuretics, causing water to be eliminated from the body. For others, dry mouth occurs with the smoking, or the use of certain medications which are known to affect saliva flow and cause dry mouth. In fact, there are hundreds of medications known to have this as a side effect. Medical conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome, which affects the salivary glands among other areas of the body, causes dry mouth in more frequent and severe ways.

The importance of saliva

Normal saliva production and flow is really important in helping to keep the teeth and mouth in a healthy state, it has several benefits and functions. Saliva helps to keep the mouth and soft tissues lubricated and moist, the ideal condition in the oral cavity. It neutralises acids that occur when we eat and drink, and helps to wash away food particles. A lack of, or absence of saliva, can negatively impact oral health. Dry mouth can lead to an uncomfortable or burning sensation on the tongue and soft tissues, increased rate and severity of dental caries (tooth decay), sores around the mouth, and bad breath.

Tips to help with dry mouth symptoms:

• Sip on water regularly. Keep a glass on your table, and a bottle with you or in your bag.
• Drinking tap water has the benefit of fluoride which helps to protect and repair teeth.
• When you are feeling thirsty head for plain water as your choice of drink.
• Chew on sugar-free or xylitol based chewing gum to stimulate saliva.
• There are products including mouth sprays, topical gels and toothpastes, and mouthrinses specially formulated to help relieve the symptoms of dry mouth. Biotene is an example of one brand and these can be found in supermarkets, chemist warehouses etc.
• If you have questions or concerns about dry mouth talk to your dental professional and doctor.

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