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Dry Mouth

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What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition that usually results from decreased production of saliva. At times, xerostomia can make it difficult to speak and may lead to malnutrition. Extreme dry mouth and salivary gland dysfunction can produce significant and permanent mouth and throat disorders and can impair a person's quality of life.

How common is dry mouth?

Xerostomia affects about 10% of all people and is more prevalent in women than men. Disorders of saliva production affect elderly people and those who are taking prescription and nonprescription medications most frequently.

Benefits of saliva

Saliva is an essential part of a healthy mouth that is often taken for granted. The lubricating properties of saliva provide comfort and help protect the oral tissues against ulcers, sores, and other effects of friction. Saliva neutralizes acids and provides antibodies against bacterial threat. Saliva helps digest food and helps teeth in the remineralization process. Saliva is also a very essential contributor to a person's ability to taste, as it acts as a solvent for the taste stimuli.

What causes dry mouth?

There are many causes of dry mouth. Xerostomia most commonly occurs as a side effect of many medications, including blood pressure medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, and many others. Other causes of dry mouth are radiation treatments to the head and neck, salivary gland diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, and autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Salivary production can be decreased if a major salivary duct becomes blocked. Other causative factors include stress, anxiety, depression, and dehydration.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2013

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