Dry mouth or xerostomia, a condition that affects approximately 20% of the population, arises when the salivary glands malfunction and fail to produce sufficient saliva. Saliva is a key facilitator of most oral functions, most notably speech, chewing and swallowing and as such dry mouth can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life.
What are the causes of Dry Mouth?
The causes of dry mouth are many and ranging from such factors as stress and depression to smoking and old age. Dry mouth is also a common side effect of numerous prescription medicines, particularly; anti-depressants, anti-histamines, anti-hypertensives, analgesics and appetite suppressants. Those with diseases such as Sjogrens, dementia and diabetes as individuals needing oxygen or simply mouth breathers will likely suffer dry mouth.
What is the impact of Dry Mouth on Oral health?
Saliva provides an important natural defence against bacteria. Poor or reduced saliva flow will result in increased levels of bacterial plaque, leading to rapid tooth decay. Early prevention and protection is therefore essential to maintain healthy teeth.
Is Dry Mouth reversible?
This depends on the cause. If the dryness is a side effect to a particular medicine or the result of stress it may be possible to treat or regulate, leading to resumption in normal saliva levels. Where the malfunction of the saliva glands is due to aging, radiotherapy or Sjogren syndrome, then this is irreversible. Whether temporary or permanent there are a range of saliva substitute and stimulant products that are highly effective in alleviating the condition, allowing sufferers to significantly improve their oral function.
What is the difference between a saliva substitute and a stimulant?
In short a saliva substitute is an artificial substance that mimics the consistency and characteristics of normal saliva, where as a stimulant induces production of natural saliva. Substitutes are recommended for individuals with no glandular activity or at night for those with only limited activity. Substitutes tend to take the form of a viscous gel or spray, whereas stimulants are most commonly in the form of a sugar-free lozenges or gum.