Dry mouth is also called cotton mouth, pasties or doughmouth. This is because of the change in consistency of the saliva followed by the reduction of salivary production. There is a formation of cloudy or cotton-like clumps of saliva. This causes bad breath, blisters and infection if not treated rightly. Bacterial growth rapidly increases because there is a change in the enzyme composition of the saliva that makes it ineffective to wash the mouth. People who suffer from this condition have a difficulty in speaking and eating.
What are the signs and symptoms of dry mouth or xerostomia?
You can tell that you have dry mouth or xerostomia if you have one or combination of these signs and symptoms:
- Carries. Excessive dental carries is the most frequent sign of dry mouth. The thickening of the whitish substance hanging around the teeth is not only caused by food debris but also the thick consistency of the saliva. This provides a very favorable environment for the bacteria to proliferate.
- Gum disease. Also due to bacterial proliferation in the mouth and causing infection in the gums.
- Candidiasis or thrush. When saliva is absent or low in production, certain Candida strain or fungus rapidly grows.
- Infection in the mouth and salivary glands. As the bacteria grows rapidly, it gets inside the major salivary glands like the parotid glands. The bacteria can block the ducts and inflame the pathways caused by the action of autoimmune system.
- Halitosis. Bad breath is an obvious result of dry mouth.
- Difficulty in swallowing. When the mouth and the throat are not lubricated, there could be a painful experience in eating and even speaking.
- Fissured tongue. The tongue gets cut because of the dryness.
- Tingling or burning of the tongue.
- Dry lips, cracked outer lips or crack in corners of mouth that can develop infection if left untreated.
How do you treat dry mouth?
Dry mouth is not impossible to treat. There are many effective ways to substitute saliva. These are some of the dry mouth treatments you can try:
- Use saliva substitutes like the mucin-based substances, milk and also, vegetable oil.
- Stimulate saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum. This is effective only to people whose salivary glands are not totally damaged.
- A prescription oral rinse to keep your mouth moist.
- Salagen, a prescription medication which helps in stimulating the saliva production.
- Drink plenty of water, 2 liters a day.
- Use humidifier at night to keep the air moist, especially during cold season.
- brush with a fluoride toothpaste and rinse.
- Visit your dentist more often to make sure you didn’t develop tooth decay or gum disease and if you have your doctor can help prevent it from getting worse.
- Talk to your physician about your medications and drugs you are taking; he or she may want to change the medication or lower the dosage.
- Quit smoking.
When you are having one or more symptoms of dry mouth, go to your doctor and ask for assistance. This may be a complication of other health problems that needs to be addressed immediately. Dry mouth can be prevented and cured if you detect early on and it can prevent unnecessary suffering.
By: Ladan Zinati