Why do I have that annoying dry mouth!


First may I say that dry mouth is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying problem. Medically it is called Xerostomia, which is a distressing and uncomfortable condition with major implications for oral health.

Approximately one in ever three or four Australians will have some degree of these symptoms.

Problems and symptoms associated with a dry mouth problem include:

  • Thick ropey saliva which causes the irritating cough that we often acquire for no reason at all.
  • Hoarsness which is often occurs when we have speech difficulties and may lead to the increased consumption of cough lozenges, acid drops, peppermints, honey and water or fruit juice at night and in between meals, all of which compromise maintenance of oral health.
  • Difficulty in swallowing often leads to a change to a softer diet of foods which are easier to swallow. These are low in fibre, require less chewing, and so there is less salivary stimulation. As they are rapidly digested and less satisfying, there is an associated increase in snacking. If this low fibre diet produces constipation, then the use of laxatives can contribute to dehydration.
  • Other problems include Glossitis (rough, dry, fissured, inflamed tongue),the tongue tends to stick to the roof of the mouth, bad breath,food retention for long periods, oral ulceration, increased oral thrush, impaired taste sensation, dentures difficult or impossible to wear, increased decay rate, more severe periodontal (gum) disease, increased rick of tooth erosion.

What causes dry mouth?

  • At least 600 drugs, legal and illegal, are known to cause Xerostomia. These include antihistamines, blood pressure medication, diuretics, laxatives, Lipitor, sedatives, analgesics, decongestants, tricyclic antidepressants and narcotics.
  • Smoking
  • Dehydration, either from exertion or drinking too little water. Other causes for dehydration are chronic diarrhoea, blood loss or kidney failure.
  • Habitual heavy breathing, e.g. due to sleep apnea, snoring.
  • Consumption of alcohol, tea, coffee, cola drinks.
  • Cancer treatments such as radiotherapy (head and neck) or chemotherapy (Hint always drink purified water as chlorinated water can cause severe mouth ulcers,)
  • Certain diseases such as diabetes, Parkinsons disease, AIDS, and autoimmune disease such as Sjogrens syndrome.
  • Salivary gland disease or blockages of the salivary duets.

How do I manage this dry mouth problem?

  • Check with your doctor to see if it's possible to reduce the dosage or prescribe a different medication.
  • Maintain adequate hydration. Drink sufficient water.
  • Maintain effective control of diabetes.
  • Stop smoking and allow your body to recover.
  • Modify your intake of alcohol, tea, coffee, cola drinks.
  • Follow a comprehensive oral care plan.
  • Carry a small atomiser spray of water to refresh your mouth.
  • Chew sugar free gum to produce saliva.
  • Xerostomia products are available which provide systematic relief from pharmacists and dentists.

As we go through Male Menopause we are going to have Xerostomia at some stage, I hope that the above which was supplied by a retired Dentist will help you overcome what can be a frustrating problem.


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