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Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dr. Leyli Valera, DDS - San Jose, CA

When dryness in the mouth becomes chronic or does not go away, this may be a sign of dry mouth syndrome, or xerostomia. Xerostomia is a common condition that affects patients for a wide variety of reasons. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to combat the symptoms to minimize damage. But if left untreated, dry mouth can not only become uncomfortable for patients but can cause more serious medical concerns.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of xerostomia or dry mouth, call the Crown Family Dentistry office. Dr. Valera is highly trained to help patients experiencing dry mouth find relief.

Common Questions about Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

What is xerostomia or dry mouth?

Xerostomia, or dry mouth syndrome, is a dryness in the mouth that occurs when it is unable to create enough saliva.

What causes xerostomia or dry mouth?

Sometimes, there is no clear reason for xerostomia or dry mouth. However, below are the most common causes of dry mouth syndrome that Dr. Valera sees.

  • Dry mouth is often a side effect of medication or a variety of medications the patient is taking.
  • Dry mouth may result from problems of the salivary gland, such as a calcified salivary stone, which will cause the gland to stop producing saliva.
  • A hormonal or autoimmune disorder, such as sjögren's syndrome, may cause dry mouth syndrome.
  • Patients who habitually mouth breathe, causing saliva to dry up, may develop dry mouth syndrome.
  • Chronic consumption of caffeine or alcohol, as well tobacco use, may lead to dry mouth syndrome.
  • Patients going through chemotherapy will sometimes develop dry mouth syndrome as a side effect of the treatment.

Why is saliva important in the mouth?

While saliva is mostly water, it contains many important substances such as electrolytes, mucus, and enzymes, playing a vital role in oral health in addition to digestion.

Saliva is able to neutralize the acids in the mouth—which can erode teeth—and wash away harmful organisms or remnants of food. Saliva also contains proteins and ions which protect the teeth and help rebuild enamel.

Why is xerostomia or dry mouth harmful?

When there is no saliva flow to the mouth, the pH becomes unbalanced, making it either too acidic or too basic. This allows harmful bacteria in the mouth will take over the good bacteria that is normally present, creating an environment for cavities to develop.

Without the protection of a sufficient amount of saliva, bacteria in the mouth may also cause sores, infection, or other complications in the mouth.

What are the signs of dry mouth?

The biggest sign of dry mouth is, of course, dryness in the mouth. Patients might experience difficulty speaking or swallowing, develop bad breath, or have a frequently sore throat. Patients with dry mouth will often have dry or cracked lips, as well.

Overtime, Dr. Valera will often see a pattern of cavities or other complications develop as a result of dry mouth.

How is xerostomia or dry mouth treated?

If you’re experiencing dry mouth, Dr. Valera will conduct a full consultation and diagnosis to determine the root cause, if possible. However, there is often no clear cause of dry mouth syndrome, or the cause is a condition out of the patient’s control (such as necessary medications).

There are a few steps patients can take every day to help balance the pH of their mouth and reduce dry mouth:

  • Keep very hydrated at all times.
  • Use alcohol-free mouthwash.
  • Use over-the-counter gum, spray, or tablets such as Xylitol to balance the pH of your saliva
  • Use over-the-counter mouthwashes which increase saliva flow or promote salivation, such as Biotene or Oasis.
  • Use a humidifier in the bedroom to prevent dry mouth from worsening overnight.

Dr. Valera also recommends fluoride for her dry mouth patients. Either professional application of fluoride or using toothpaste and mouthwash which contains fluoride can help decrease that heighten risk of cavities for patients with dry mouth syndrome. And as always, regular maintenance and routine visits to the dentist for cleanings is important.

Can xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome be cured?

Because the cause of dry mouth is often unknown—or the cause is out of the patient’s control, such as needing to take a certain medication—there is no cure for dry mouth. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, Dr. Valera will work with you to ensure the symptoms are minimized, your risk of cavities is controlled, and you’re well equipped to take the necessary precautions. Xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome is a common condition that should not greatly affect the patient’s everyday life.

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