Dry mouth is a lack of saliva that results in a variety of uncomfortable and/or painful symptoms. The vast majority of dry mouth complaints come from patients on various medications, and patients having gone through radiation and chemo therapy. Dry mouth is a dreadful, irritating condition, as you may well know if you are reading this web page.

Lack of saliva causes taste buds to sense differently, so the first thing a person may notice is food tasting differently. Without the lubricating effects of saliva, plaque will often build up on teeth, increasing the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. 

What saliva is produced will often feel thick or even stringy, and a person will have difficulty talking and find it hard, or even painful, to swallow. Dry mouth also causes sore throat and sores at the corner of the mouth. Sometimes the skin around the mouth splits and the lips even crack. Due to the lack of fluid in the mouth and the increase in bacteria and plaque on the teeth, bad breath is often very common as well.

The physiology of Dry mouth occurs when normal saliva secretions are dramatically reduced.Healthy salivary glands should produce around 3 pints of saliva a day. That's why most recommendations about treatment start with "drink plenty of water".  This might sound like common sense, but many people these days drink far less water than they realize.

Saliva provides a number of dental benefits in addition to its obvious function in helping chew food and prepare it for digestion. Saliva constantly cleans the surfaces of teeth and helps to prevent the buildup of plaque. There are also minerals present in saliva that strengthen teeth against tooth decay. It also discourages bacteria from attaching to teeth and thus helps preserve tooth enamel and protect against gum disease. Saliva is alkaline in nature and neutralizes natural acids that can damage mouth tissues.

Dry mouth can have natural causes like aging, because as a person gets older the salivary glands secrete less. However, severe dry mouth at a younger age is most likely the side effect of both prescription and over the counter medications. 

Drugs used to treat anxiety and depression rank high on the list of those that can produce dry mouth. High blood pressure medicine, muscle relaxers, and antidiuretics often cause this condition. Chemotherapy treatment has a tendency to change the nature and amount of saliva produced, and cancer radiation therapy can actually damage salivary glands. Neck injuries that injure nerves can affect the salivary glands as well.

Sometimes simply the presence of a pronounced health condition is all it takes to trigger dry mouth. Individuals who suffer from anxiety and clinical depression often have inconsistent or reduced salivary production. 

Conditions that affect the brain, such as strokes and Alzheimers disease, can also reduce saliva production. Autoimmune disease and diabetes are also two other known causes of the condition.

If you think you may have dry mouth, you should consult with a dentist to study your case history and examine your mouth. It may be necessary as well to do a cat scan on the salivary glands or have some blood drawn for testing. 

Be sure to tell your dentist about ALL medical conditions you are suffering from and all medications you are taking. If the dentist concludes you have dry mouth because of medication, it may be possible to try switching medicines or altering the dosage. There are also drugs the dentist can prescribe that will help you produce more saliva. Additionally, your dentist will recommend any number of self-care options that will require lifestyle change on your part. Eliminating sugar and acidic substances from the diet is almost always the first thing dentist asks you to do. 

Quitting smoking helps everything, including problems with dry mouth. 

Increasing the amount of water you drink will help remedy dry mouth, and rigorous brushing and flossing will help protect teeth that have become vulnerable to decay because of dry mouth. 
It may be necessary to use a special fluoride toothpaste or gel for this, so be sure to Ask the Dentist about this.

Treating the cause(s) of the oral dryness


Since Dry Mouth is caused by many things, it should not be surprising that there are different ways to treat it. If your physician or dentist can determine the cause of your oral dryness, he/she may be able to provide you with a specific cure. The trouble is, this is easier said than done.

If the dryness is due to drugs, it may be possible for your doctor to advise you to stop taking those drugs, reduce their intake or switch to another "less drying" medication. The info drug search engine can be quite useful in this effort. Sometimes, especially, in life threatening diseases, it may not be possible to change a patient's drug intake pattern.. 

If the dryness is due to a specific disease, e.g. diabetes, proper treatment of the disease will decrease the intensity of your oral symptoms. 

Occasionally, we do not know the causes of the diseases which produce dry mouth. This, for example, is the case with Sjogren's Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions. In such cases, we try to relieve the symptoms of the disease rather than treat the disease itself.

How to Treat Dry Mouth and its Associated Symptoms

To Keep Your Mouth Moist.

Sip water or other sugar-free juices frequently. It is particularly important to drink often while eating. This will aid chewing and swallowing and may enhance the taste of your food. You can carry a water bottle, like bicycle riders do, during the day and keep a glass of water at your bedside at night. 

Also, use a humidifier to increase the moisture content of the air in your room. 

Stimulate the flow of your saliva by eating foods which require a lot of chewing.
By chewing sugarless gum
By using, if possible, acid-tasting, sugarless (diabetic-type) candies..
By "sucking" a cherry or olive pit; or the rind of a lemon or lime. 

To Protect the Hard and Soft Tissues of your Mouth

Ask your dentist to teach you how to scrape or brush the surface of your tongue, and do this every day. 
Use a fluoride toothpaste daily. In some cases, your dentist may prescribe the fabrication of a "mouth-guard", like athletes wear. A fluoride gel is placed in these trays and they are worn for several minutes every night. 

Decrease your intake of sugars and your snack frequency. Also, watch your intake of carbohydrates, like bread and pasta and cookies, etc. which tend to hang around in the mouth. 

Avoid or decrease your intake of spicy, salty or very acidic foods. 

Do not smoke

Avoid or decrease your intake of alcohol

Avoid or decrease your intake of caffeine-containing drinks and foods. 

Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, and sip water with it before swallowing. 

Salivary Substitutes (Artificial Saliva) or a mouth-gel can be used to lubricate your tissues. They sometimes make you feel less dry. 

See your dentist at least 3 times a year and have him/her routinely check you for evidence of early decay.

The Use of Drugs to Increase the Flow of Saliva 
Recent studies have shown that drugs called Pilocarpine (SalagenTM) and Cevimeline ( EvoxacTM) can decrease your sensation of oral dryness. These drugs are generally taken 3 - 4 times a day, after meals, and their effects usually last from 2 - 4 hours. The side-effects of these medications are generally modest.. These drugs, combined with other methods to stimulate the flow of saliva have made it possible for many people to find relief from their scorched-mouth feeling. 

The following table lists the names of several commercially available Salivary Stimulants, Oral Moisturizers and Salivary Substitutes.

Biotene Xylitol Laclede Professional Products

Eclipse maltitol, sorbitol,mannitol, aspartame, acesulfame K
Certified by the American Dental Association to "prevent cavities, reduce plaque and strengthen teeth." Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Extra sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, acesulfame K and aspartamel
Certified by the American Dental Association to "prevent cavities, reduce plaque and strengthen teeth." Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Orbit Sorbitol, mannnitol, xylitol, aspartame, acesulfame K
Certified by the American Dental Association to "prevent cavities, reduce plaque and strengthen teeth." Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Orbit White Maltitol, sorbitol, mannitol,aspartame, acesulfame K Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Orbit Ice White sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol syrup, aspartame, acesulfame K Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Airwaves Isomalt,sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol syrup (in Honey Lemon only), aspartame, acesulfame K Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Co.

Trident sorbitol, mannitol, acesulfame, aspartame Warner-Lambert
Xylifresh xylitol Leaf Specialty Products

Chemical Stimulants 

Solutions Mouth-Kote Mucopolysaccaharide Sol., contains citric acid Parnell Pharmaceuticals
Optimoist Contains citric acid Colgate-Palmolive, Co.

Electrical Stimulant 

Electrical Stimulation Salitron
Prescription required Intra-oral electronic stimulator of saliva Biosonics, Inc. 

Pharmacologic Stimulant
Drugs Salagen (Pilocarpine HCl); Prescription required Cholinergic agonist MGI Pharma, Inc.
Evoxac (Cevimeline HCl); Prescription required Cholinergic agonist Daiichi Parmaceutical Co. Ltd.

Oral Moisturizers / Salivary Substitutes

Salivart Contains carboxymethyl cellulose and hydroxyethyl cellulose Xenex Laboratories, Inc.
Xero-Lube Colgate Hoyt/Gel-Kam
Plax Water-glycerin agent Pfizer Inc.
Gel Oral Balance Glycerate polymer Laclede Professional Products

Lastly, check out this website for more links and information: