Is Dry Mouth Something to Be Concerned About?

30 / 06 / 2022

It’s not uncommon for people to visit their dentist complaining about a persistently dry mouth. In fact, dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia) is a condition which affects around 10% of the Australian population. Whilst certain medications and the natural ageing process are the most common contributing factors to dry mouth, it’s worth visiting your dentist to rule out other possible causes.  

How is Xerostomia Different to Temporary Dry Mouth? 

Humans of all ages can experience dry mouth, but it is usually only temporary. Most commonly it is caused by dehydration, and drinking a few glasses of water is all that is needed to restore saliva production and moisture to the mouth.  

 Xerostomia is a chronic condition whereby the function of the salivary glands is impaired, leading to a reduced (or absent) saliva flow and persistent dry mouth. If symptoms of dry mouth persist for longer than a few days, you should visit your dentist for a diagnosis and to seek further advice.  

 Why is Saliva Important? 

Maintaining sufficient lubrication around the mouth, throat and lips is important for several reasons. Not only does saliva help to keep your mouth comfortable, but it also aids in removing debris (stuck food particles), neutralising acids, assisting digestion and warding off infection. Saliva plays a key role in helping to reduce your risk of tooth decay and keep your mouth and teeth healthy.   

When function of the salivary glands is impaired, you may experience heightened bacterial growth, discomfort and persistent bad breath. 

Common symptoms of reduced/absent saliva flow include: 

  • Thick/stringy saliva
  • Sores/ulcers around the mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty swallowing or eating
  • Tingling sensation around the mouth
  • Uncomfortably dry mouth, tongue and lips

What Causes Dry Mouth? 

Whilst dry mouth is often thought to be an issue which only affects the elderly, it can occur amongst people of any age. It is normal for saliva production to slow down as we age, but other factors can contribute to reduced salivary gland function.  

Some contributing factors include: 

  • Tobacco use – Smokers and people who use other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco or snuff often experience reduced saliva flow, due to the effects of chemicals contained within tobacco.  
  • Chemotherapy – People undergoing chemotherapy can experience a temporary reduction in saliva production. 
  • Prescription Drugs – Some prescription drugs are known to cause dry mouth. Some of the most common include anti-depressants, antihistamines, diuretics, blood pressure medications and painkillers. 
  • Chronic health conditions – People with conditions such as Alzheimers, diabetes, lupus and Parkinson’s disease are at a heightened risk of experiencing dry mouth. 
  • Facial trauma – Any injuries to the face or neck can damage the salivary glands, in turn impeding their function.  
  • Excessive caffeine consumption – Due to the dehydrative effects of caffeine, dry mouth is a common symptom of those who drink a lot of coffee, energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages.  
  • Dehydration – One of the more common causes of dry mouth. Adults should try to drink at least 2 litres of water per day to remain hydrated. 

Treatment of Dry Mouth 

For most people, dry mouth will resolve on its own accord with a few simple lifestyle changes such as drinking more water, reducing caffeine consumption or finishing a course of medication. In chronic or persistent cases, artificial saliva substitutes are a potential treatment option which can be prescribed by your dentist. Surgery may also help to restore function to the salivary glands.  

You should discuss your concerns with your dentist, so that the exact cause of your dry mouth can be established and an appropriate treatment plan implemented. 

Concerned about Dry Mouth? Visit Big Smiles Dental Today 

Dry mouth is a common complaint of many patients visiting Big Smiles Dental. Whilst this condition can be uncomfortable, it is typically straightforward to diagnose and treat. Call today on (02) 9921-1799 to book an appointment at our Little Bay dental clinic.