Xerostomia is a medical term that means dry mouth. It describes a condition that happens often, not just once or twice. The saliva in your mouth serves an important purpose, as it helps wash particles of food away from your teeth and helps fight diseases such as thrush, which is caused by certain bacteria.
When your mouth is dry often, it can cause you to suffer from bacterial infections, dry and cracked tongue and lips, and cavities. It is important to find out what is causing your chronic dry mouth and take steps to remedy it.
What Causes Xerostomia?
There are many different things that can cause you to have a chronic dry mouth, so a doctor will need to review your thorough medical history.
It will help if you know what some of the most common causes are:
- Medication – Many medications reduce the natural flow of saliva. These medications include diuretics, many mental health medications and medicine for sinuses and allergies.
- Illness – Illnesses such as Sjogren’s, arthritis and AIDS can cause your mouth to be habitually dry.
Medical Treatments – Many treatments for cancer, especially those involving radiation to the head or neck, can damage the salivary glands.
- Smoking – Smoking is often noted for reducing the saliva production in your mouth.
- Breathing – Breathing through your mouth instead of your nose dries your mouth.
- Nerve Damage – Having a head or mouth injury can damage the nerves in your mouth.
What Can You Do?
Temporary measures that can help alleviate the symptoms of xerostomia include sucking on hard candy, chewing sugar-free gum and brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. Using a fluoride rinse will also help, as will sipping on water throughout the day. Certain lifestyle changes can also show improvement in your condition. These include quitting smoking, breathing through your nose, and using a home humidifier.
If these measures don’t solve the problem, you may need to discuss the condition with your doctor. He can change your medications, prescribe a special mouth rinse, or perform tests to find any nerve damage that may be causing the problem.