Dry mouth or Xerostomia results from inadequate production of saliva in salivary glands of the mouth.
It is not a disease but rather a symptom or a side effect of some medications or treatment procedures. Many medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers or diuretics cause dry mouth and if taken over a long period of time, they will cause chronic dry mouth. Some cancer treatments and radiations also cause chronic dry mouth.
Saliva is a very important factor in oral health; it helps to wash away food debris from teeth, it neutralizes the acidity of the mouth and it fights as first line of defense against many pathogens that exist in the mouth.
Lack of saliva or decline in the salivary production will put a person at greater risk for tooth decay and gum disease. It also affects the ability to taste food, eat and speak clearly in a negative way. Other problems associated with dry mouth are sore throat, burning sensation, difficulty swallowing and change of voice.
There is no good cure for dry mouth other than changing medication if possible. Artificial saliva and sugar free chewing gum can help to keep the mouth moist as well as drinking water throughout the day.
Dry mouth can be an indicator of Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects all other moisture producing glands such as tear glands.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, it is important that you discuss it with your dentist.