Dry Mouth – A Window to Your Health

Jamie J. Alexander on September 18, 2021

Dry mouth (Xerostomia) annoys many people and is characterized by a feeling of dryness or stickiness in the mouth. “The problem can lead to a higher risk of dental caries, yeast infection, periodontal disease, and oral pain,” says Boynton Beach dentist Dr. Jamie Alexander. “I’ve consulted with many dental patients with this condition. When it is chronic, it affects their nutrition, oral health, social and emotional wellbeing, and sometimes their total health.”

What causes xerostomia?

There are multiple causes of dry mouth. Among them are medications that have the side effect of reducing saliva production, head and neck radiation therapy, physiological changes of aging, alcohol consumption, tobacco and drug use, and multiple systemic disease conditions, among the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and related Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Tuberculosis
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Dentists are on the front line of consulting about and treating dry mouth.

Early detection of systemic diseases and medicine-related complications aids in the timely treatment of xerostomia.
“Many times, health care providers are so focused on treating a disease, that they are not attentive to the complications of xerostomia,” says Dr. Alexander. “Patients turn to their dentists for advice, and this is a good thing. Awareness of persistent dry mouth (xerostomia) enables the dentist to optimally help you prevent dental and gum disease and alleviate symptoms. If you have a disease that is known to cause dry mouth, seek your dentist’s help as early as possible. If you are not aware of an underlying disease, health history and thorough oral health assessment by the dentist can lead to diagnosis and a total health workup when indicated.”

What types of treatment are available for Xerostomia (dry mouth)?

Treatment for dry mouth varies based on the cause and severity of the condition. It may be possible for your doctor to prescribe a different medication or course of treatment. There are several over-the-counter mouth moisturizers such as mouth rinses created for dry mouth. If dry mouth is severe, there are prescription medications that stimulate saliva production.

“Saliva helps wash away food particles,” says Dr. Jamie Alexander. “In the case of dry mouth, food sticks to teeth longer. In tight spaces at the base of teeth and in cusp crevices, plaque develops faster. Because dry mouth produces the right conditions for caries to erode enamel, I recommend more frequent dental cleanings by our hygienist and daily home use of a WaterPik water flosser. If you talk to me about your dry mouth symptoms, we can come up with a plan to reduce symptoms and make you more comfortable while the cause or causes of your dry mouth are more fully diagnosed and we develop a long-term plan in conjunction with your medical doctor.”