Why I think saliva is like car oil…

Jamie J. Alexander on March 17, 2015

Saliva is an amazing substance with multiple functions. Like motor oil for your car engine, it lubricates, protects, and keeps the parts running smoothly. But saliva does even more!

As a lubricant, it helps protect the soft tissues of your mouth against ulcers, sores, and uncomfortable friction. Saliva neutralizes acids and helps digest food. In fact, it starts the digestive process by breaking down carbohydrates before you swallow them. It helps rinse food particles off of your teeth and out from between them. The enzymes in your saliva not only start digestion but also contribute to taste. Believe it or not, saliva helps re-mineralize tooth enamel. And, it’s antibodies help defend our bodies against bacterial threat.

Saliva & Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Saliva is so important that we want to make sure you have a continuous, healthy supply. Dry mouth (a condition called “xerostomia”) is such a prevalent condition that 10% of the population probably suffer from it and many of my patients inquire about why they experience it and what to do. If you are experiencing dry mouth frequently or chronically, schedule an appointment for us talk. Together, we will figure out what is causing the condition in your case and what to do.

Besides decreasing your quality of life, xerostomia can raise your risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush. Dry mouth can also make it hard to wear dentures. At times, it can make it difficult for you to speak and may lead to malnutrition.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

These are the common symptoms:

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Frequent thirst
  • Sores in the mouth; sores or split skinat the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • A dry, red, raw tongue
  • Problems speaking or trouble tasting, chewing, and swallowing
  • Hoarseness,
  • Dry nasal passages,
  • Sore throat, and
  • Bad breath

What Causes Dry Mouth? And What Can Fix It?

Dry mouth most commonly occurs as a side effect of medications. Although decreased saliva production most frequently affects elderly people and those who are taking prescription and nonprescription medications, there are many other causes such as radiation treatments to treat cancerous tumors of the head and neck, salivary gland diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, mouth breathing, sleep apnea, and autoimmune disorders.

If your symptoms are not severe or infrequent, the following may increase saliva production:

  • Sucking on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
  • Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, using a fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist regularly.
  • Breathing through your nose as much as possible.
  • Using a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air.
  • Using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.

If the above tactics do not increase saliva sufficiently, we can still do something. For example, if medication is the cause, a consultation with your doctor can result in a change in medication. I can prescribe an oral rinse to help restore mouth moisture. And, if that doesn’t help, in consultation with your doctor, a medication can be prescribed to boost saliva production.

I’m here to help. Having a conversation with me at your next appointment or calling to schedule a conversation will put you on the path of reversing dry mouth to restore comfort and health.