Since saliva plays such an important role in the oral cavity, decreased salivation can lead to many problems. If a person's dry mouth condition persists for months or years, a patient may develop oral complications such as difficulty swallowing, severe and progressive tooth decay, oral infections (particularly fungal), or combinations of these.
Early signs to look for that indicate dry mouth include: dental decay located at the necks of teeth next to the gums or on the chewing edges of teeth. Symptoms of dry mouth can include difficulty swallowing food (especially dry food) without a drink, a change in the sense of taste, a burning sensation or pain in the mouth, tooth decay, difficulty talking or eating certain foods, or some combination of these.
Saliva is an essential body fluid for protection and preservation of the oral cavity and oral functions. It is produced by the three pairs of major salivary glands and hundreds of minor salivary glands. Its value is seldom appreciated until there is not enough. Saliva is mostly water, but it also contains over 60 substances, which:
- protect, lubricate and cleanse the oral mucosa
- aid chewing, swallowing and talking
- protect the teeth against decay
- protect the mouth, teeth, and throat from infection by bacteria, yeasts, and viruses
- support and facilitate our sense of taste
Ask your dentist
- how frequently you need to be checked for early decay.
- for specific instructions regarding your oral hygiene.
- about the possible need for home and/ or professionally-applied topical fluoride (in addition to the fluoride contained in your daily toothpaste). Topical fluoride gels usually require a personalized ‘tray’ for best delivery to your teeth. In some cases, a fluoride varnish may be applied by your dentist.
- if you should use a remineralizing agent.
Dry mouth causes include
- prolonged use of many prescription drugs including certain antihistamines, antihypertensives, and antidepressants
- chronic diseases such as Sjögren’s, sarcoidosis, hepatitis C, diabetes, or depression
- medical treatments such as radiation therapy to the head and neck or bone marrow transplantation
Additional Dry Mouth Resources:
- Dental Tips
- Dry Mouth Treatments
- Oral Candidiasis (Thrush) in Sjögren’s
- Reflux and Your Throat
- Salivary Glands Massage
Brochures (Downloadable PDF's)