You are hungry and you are fantasizing or perhaps waiting for your favorite dish. This situation would ideally lead to mouth-watering, but instead, if all you feel is dry corners of your mouth, you have xerostomia. My example may be farfetched but the dry mouth condition totally real and a common one too.
So if you have a dry mouth or almost no saliva in your mouth, this condition is known as xerostomia. Do you know where the term came from? Obviously Greek, no marks for guessing that. It’s a combination of xeros meaning dry and stoma meaning mouth.
The thing to consider is that xerostomia is always almost just a side effect of something else. Possible causes of xerostomia include:
- The impact of some medications or over the counter drugs
- If you undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, especially for head or neck, there is a high chance of developing xerostomia during or after the treatment
- If you suffer from any auto immune diseases, like Sjogren, Rheumatoid arthritis, Scleroderma and others, it increases the risk of xerostomia
- Generally old age is considered to bring many health challenges, this one isn’t spared either
- Often under stress, or depression, salivary gland malfunction
- Conditions like HIV, Diabetes lead to dry mouth
- Chronic Inflammatory diseases can be behind it as well
- Smoking too much, alcohol consumption, breathing from the mouth can also be factors
If you think what is the big deal with having dry saliva less mouth, then the symptoms will explain the need for saliva in mouth:
- Dry or cracked lips appear if you have Xerostomia
- You may have difficulty tasting, chewing and swallowing food
- A patchy, rough tongue appears, which leads to problem speaking, and occasionally can cause pain
- Say goodbye to that toothy smile. You can experience tooth decay, infection in mouth including fungal infections, corrosion of the teeth minerals
- Mouth sores can happen
- Bad breath may accompany it
- Sore throat
And you thought saliva was useless, the diagnosis requires a check of the oral mucosa. Sialometry (saliva flow measurement) is done to diagnose it. Sialography can be done, it’s an X-Ray imaging of salivary duct after adding some radio opaque dye. Another crucial factor for diagnosis is an analysis of complete medical history.
Treatment starts with finding the relevant cause and working on it. For instance, when a medication is causing it, then changing the medicine, or altering the dosage or breaking the dose into courses will help.
Apart from that to ease out the symptoms you can be prescribed saliva inducing medicines. There are also mouthwashes that help in keeping the mouth moist. You will need to maintain oral hygiene and care well to keep your mouth in good shape and counteract the tooth decay or damages. Keeping yourself well-hydrated helps. Additionally, you can try sugar-free chewing gum to aid saliva.
To sum it up, you will need to work on it, if you are to save your mouth from being a dry land, after all, saliva isn’t an oasis in the desert, it’s supposed to be there forever. Gulp it down, keep it wet and stay well.