Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Xerostomia (dry mouth) is a condition where the salivary glands do not produce adequate amounts of saliva. The problems can range from mild temporary discomfort to significant and permanent health issues.

This condition affects approximately 10% of the population. Women, the elderly and people that take certain medications make up the majority.

The Effects of xerostomia:
  • Tooth Decay
  • Difficulty eating and digesting properly
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Sores and ulcers
Some of these are obvious. I'll elaborate on just a couple to keep this blog a short quick read.

Tooth decay is a common issue when there is diminished salivary output for a couple of reasons. First, the saliva helps dilute and wash the foods away from the surfaces of the teeth. It is also beneficial in neutralizing the acidity of many foods. One other benefit of saliva is it's antibacterial properties. It helps keep oral bacteria in check.

Difficulty with speech can become a challenge. When the mouth is dry we have difficulty making "S", "T", "F" and "V" sounds. Try it the next time you have a dry mouth.

  • Certain medications
  • Certain diseases 
  • Radiation and Surgery
  • Dehydration
  • Smoking
  • Mouth Breathing
Again, most of these are obvious. I'll elaborate on a few things.

Medications are the most common cause for a dry mouth. There are too many medications to list. Here are a few: medications for blood pressure, asthma, diarrhea, nausea, obesity, acne, Parkinson's disease, antidepressants, antihistamines, antiepileptics, decongestants, diuretics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. All of these can decrease salivary production.

Diseases like Sjogrens, Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, diabetes, mumps and cystic fibrosis are just some that can cause xerostomia.

Radiation to the head and neck is often administered in an effort to kill cancer cells in the region. Unfortunately, the cells lining the salivary glands are also destroyed.

It is easy to see how dehydration can occur from a lack of fluid intake. What may not be as obvious is that dehydration can also occur from diarrhea, burns, vomiting, fevers, excessive sweating and blood loss.


It all depends on what the true cause is. Some causes are easy to address whereas others are impossible. There are some over-the-counter salivary substitutes that may prove helpful. Speak to your physician or dentist to see what is best for you.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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