Dry mouth is a condition that occurs when there is lack of saliva in the mouth or the throat area. Many dry mouth symptoms can be debilitating in many ways and can cause constant discomfort, distracting sufferers from the everyday activities. Human saliva, produced by the salivary glands, consists 98% water, but also contains enzymes, electrolytes, and mucus and anti-bacterial compounds. Saliva serves to lubricate and protect the tongue, teeth and tender tissues of the mouth. It also begins the digestion process, and breaks down food caught in the teeth, protecting the teeth from cavities. Insufficient saliva production can lead to bad breath, increased cavities, difficulty in speaking, eating and discomfort.
There are several causes of dry mouth, also called xerostomia. These include:
- Side effects of some medications. Most of the prescriptions and over the counter drugs cause dry mouth. Antihistamines, pain relievers, blood pressure medications, anti- depressants, chemotherapy, muscle relaxants, hypertension, obesity, acne, mental disorders, asthma, epilepsy and diuretic medications can cause dry mouth. Also, some medical treatments can cause side dry mouth as a side effect. Radiation treatment and chemotherapy in the head region can cause damage to the salivary glands, which can cause chronic dry mouth.
- Smoking decreases saliva production and should be considered hen determining the causes of a dry mouth. Chewing tobacco can also have the same effect. Therefore, decreasing or quitting smoking can reduce or eradicate dry mouth for some sufferers. Alcoholic drinks and products containing caffeine can also cause dry mouth through dehydration. Breathing through the mouth for prolonged periods (especially while sleeping) can exacerbate a problem with dry mouth.
- In some cases, trauma or injury to the mouth or throat can cause irreversible damage to the salivary glands. In some cases, nerve damage to the neck and head can also cause the salivary glands to produce less saliva. Some surgical procedures run the risk of damaging the salivary glands, thus reducing production of saliva.
- Dry mouth can also be attributed to certain diseases or infections or medical conditions including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, anemia, arthritis, the mumps or a stroke.
- Decrease in one’s ability to chew can lead to dry mouth. If you cut down on your chewing, the salivary glands will decline in size and produce less saliva and this induces dryness.
- Depression also leads to a slow rate of saliva production leading to dryness.