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an article by
Valentina Tkachenko
(visitor contribution)
Commonly known as dry mouth, xerostomia is a condition which has many causes but ultimately results in being unable to produce enough saliva to maintain optimal oral health. Saliva is required to moisten and cleanse the mouth, aids in beginning digestion, and fights infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. Xerostomia can arise as a side effect of some mediations including treatments for depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, colds, obesity, acne, hypertension, asthma, and Parkinson’s disease among many others. If this is the case, a doctor may be adjust the dosage of the medication causing the problem or prescribe an alternative which does not include dry mouth as a side effect. Another possible cause can be disease or infection, notably HIV/AIDS, diabetes, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, stroke, and mumps along with other conditions. Certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy can also result in xerostomia, as can nerve damage, injury, or surgical removal of the salivary glands. Furthermore, dehydration can be a cause of temporary dry mouth due to high fever, excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, burns, and excessive alcohol consumption. Certain drugs have been known to cause the same reaction, most notably methamphetamines, cannabis, and tobacco. Finally, the simple act of breathing too much through the mouth as opposed to the nose can dry out the mouth.

Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but also dangerous as it can also cause halitosis (bad breath) due to excessive bacterial growth in the mouth, increase risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and infections such as thrush. Medications which stimulate saliva production such as Salagen are available, as are artificial saliva substitutes. Patients often find that sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing gum can help stimulate natural saliva productions, as can using a vaporizer, breathing through the nose, and drinking a lot of liquids. Furthermore, patients are encouraged to use toothpaste which contains fluoride and using a fluoride rinse to keep the risk of infection and plaque to a minimum, and to visit a dentist regularly for check-ups.

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