Dry mouth or xerostomia is a condition when the mouth feels dry due to a lack of saliva production. Dry mouth is commonly caused by side effects of radiotherapy to the head and neck, the aging process, or autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren's syndrome.
Saliva has many functions, such as preventing tooth decay, keeping the oral cavity clean, and helping the process of chewing and swallowing food.
A small amount of saliva can cause dry mouth and increase the risk of oral health problems, such as gingivitis , cavities, and fungal infections in the mouth.
In general, dry mouth is common to experience occasionally, for example when you are stressed or anxious. However, if it occurs for a long time, dry mouth conditions can be a sign of a health problem that needs further treatment.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are unable to produce enough saliva. This lack of saliva production can occur due to several factors, such as:
- Dehydration , for example due to diarrhea or excessive sweating
- Stress and anxiety
- The habit of breathing through the mouth, for example due to nasal congestion or snoring
- The aging process, because the elderly tend to experience malnutrition or chronic disease
- Side effects of medications, such as diuretics , antidepressants, antihistamines , muscle relaxants, and pain relievers
- The habit of smoking , chewing tobacco, or consuming alcoholic beverages
- Certain conditions or diseases, such as mouth sores, Sjögren's syndrome , anemia, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis , Alzheimer's disease, mumps, hypertension , and HIV/AIDS
- Injury or surgery complications that cause nerve damage in the neck and head
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy to the head and neck
Dry Mouth Symptoms
Dry mouth is a symptom that occurs when the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. Lack of saliva production can also cause various symptoms, such as:
- Bad breath
- Often feel thirsty
- Saliva feels thick
- The nasal passages feel dry
- Dry and chapped lips
- Dry and sore throat
- The inside of the mouth feels sticky
- A burning sensation in the mouth, especially on the tongue
- The tongue is dry, looks reddish, and feels rough
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking
- Disorders of the sense of taste
In addition to the complaints above, dry mouth can also make it difficult for sufferers to install dentures .
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms above, especially if the complaint doesn't subside after self-care.
A doctor's examination is also needed if dry mouth occurs in the long term. This can increase the risk of other health problems, such as cavities .
Immediately consult a doctor if the symptoms are getting worse to the point that it makes it difficult to eat and drink.
Diagnosis of Dry Mouth
Diagnosis begins with questions and answers regarding symptoms, medical history, and medications currently being consumed by the patient, followed by an examination of the mouth.
To determine the cause of dry mouth, the doctor can carry out several supporting examinations, such as:
- Blood tests , to detect infections or other diseases that may be causing dry mouth, such as diabetes
- Saliva production test, to determine the amount of saliva produced
- Salivary gland biopsy , by taking a sample of salivary gland tissue which is then examined in the laboratory if dry mouth is suspected to be caused by Sjögren's syndrome
- Scan with CT scan and MRI, to check for disorders of the salivary glands
Dry Mouth Treatment
Before undergoing treatment from a doctor, patients should do self-care first. Patients can drink water more often, suck on ice cubes, or chew sugar-free gum. These methods aim to stimulate saliva production.
If the above efforts are not effective in dealing with dry mouth, immediately check with your doctor to get the right treatment. Doctors can perform the following methods:
- Reduce the dose or change medicines if dry mouth is caused by taking certain medicines
- Give artificial saliva or mouthwash containing xylitol
- Give the drug pilocarpine , to stimulate saliva production
- Apply topical fluoride to prevent cavities
Dry Mouth Complications
A number of complications that can occur if the cause of dry mouth is not treated immediately are:
- Dry lips
- Cavities, tartar build-up, or gum disease
- Fungal infection in the mouth
- Malnutrition due to difficulty chewing and swallowing
Dry Mouth Prevention
Dry mouth can be prevented by drinking enough water every day, and maintaining healthy mouth and teeth . Some other ways you can do to prevent or relieve symptoms of dry mouth are:
- Stop the habit of breathing through your mouth and take medication if you often snore at night.
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid consuming caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
- Use a humidifier in your room, especially at night.
- Apply lip balm to treat chapped lips.
- Limit consumption of foods that contain sugar, sour, spicy and salty foods.
- Use toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride and avoid using mouthwash that contains alcohol.
- Check with the dentist at least twice in 1 year.
- Do routine checks to the doctor if you experience dry mouth due to side effects of drugs or chemotherapy.