The signs, symptoms and treatment of chronic dry mouth syndrome

It’s unpleasant to say the least, but treatment is an option.

Dry mouth syndrome is when insufficient saliva is produced in the mouth and, according to Better Health, 25 per cent of older people have it. It may be caused by a number of different factors, and while it is not a disease, it can be the symptom to an underlying issue.

Along with helping us taste, swallow and digest food, saliva is important for our oral health as it helps to clean our mouths, attacks bacteria and viruses, and neutralises acids. The symptoms underlying dry mouth syndrome interrupt the ability of saliva to perform these tasks.

The symptoms of dry mouth syndrome manifest through problems in chewing and swallowing food, having thicker saliva, dry or cracking lips, small sores forming on the lips at the corners of the mouth, and the sensation of a dry tongue that sticks to the roof of the mouth. Having bad breath, ulcers, a burning sensation in the mouth and a high rate of tooth decay are also signs. As saliva helps to create suction between dentures and gum tissue, having loose acrylic dentures can also be a sign of dry mouth syndrome.

Dry mouth syndrome may even impact other parts of the body, causing coughing, a reduced ability to taste and smell, dry eyes, nose or throat, stiffness of joint, constipation or frequent oral or vaginal thrush infections.  

The syndrome is caused by a wide range of factors that include lifestyle, illness and medication. Sjogren’s syndrome, for example, is an autoimmune disease that attacks saliva-making glands, and is a common cause of dry mouth syndrome.

However, short-term infections in the glands can cause inflammation that disrupts saliva production. There are also around six hundred medications, including sedatives, antihistamines, decongestants, high blood pressure medications and antidepressants that are known to cause dry mouth syndrome.

Further, the syndrome may also be linked to a series of serious illnesses including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, amyloidosis, AIDS, primary biliary cirrhosis and lupus. It can also be caused by a series of other factors including facial nerve damage, dehydration, breathing predominantly through the mouth, menopausal hormonal change, chemotherapy or radiology of the neck or head, and obstruction of the saliva ducts.

If you suffer from dry mouth syndrome, don’t despair. It is generally treatable with medical assistance. However, the nature of treatment may change depending on the cause. Treatment may include a change in medication, the use of dry mouth products or saliva substitutes, antibiotics or even surgery in extreme cases. To seek treatment, visit your GP to find out what options are best for you.

To ease dry mouth symptoms in the meantime, it helps to increase water intake, chew on sugar-free gum or lollies and avoid cigarettes, crunchy food and acidic, caffeinated or sugary foods and drinks. Also, visit the dentist regularly, floss daily and use products that contain fluoride to help maintain oral health.

Have you had or known someone who had dry mouth syndrome?

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    COMMENTS

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    Charlie
    18th Feb 2019
    10:39am
    That must be terrible, even drugs that cause dry mouth, will cause disfunction at the other end too.
    Bluefox
    18th Feb 2019
    11:23am
    I have had Sjogrens Syndrome for 25 years and living in Queensland this summer has been terrible. Unfortunately, Bion Tears eye drops are the only prescription medicine available. My dental bills are huge, with no medicare help, only a small amount from 'extras' Health Insurance. There are so many things that impact on the condition. Flying causes small leg capillaries to rupture leaving unsightly red marks which last for weeks. (Forget about wearing shorts if you are on holidays!). Unfortunately Sjogrens it is not curable. For anyone interested, look it up on the computer.
    Gypsy
    18th Feb 2019
    1:42pm
    I too have it - along with other autoimmune diseases. But Sjogrens doesn't just affect the mouth. It can affect nose, throat, eyes & if you're unlucky, internal organs. And the real clincher, arthritis!
    Even the top end medications don't give a lot of relief. I needle myself twice a week to try to help control the whole mess.
    But there's much worse out there, so you just get on with it :)
    Gypsy
    18th Feb 2019
    1:42pm
    I too have it - along with other autoimmune diseases. But Sjogrens doesn't just affect the mouth. It can affect nose, throat, eyes & if you're unlucky, internal organs. And the real clincher, arthritis!
    Even the top end medications don't give a lot of relief. I needle myself twice a week to try to help control the whole mess.
    But there's much worse out there, so you just get on with it :)
    Arisaid
    18th Feb 2019
    12:33pm
    During chemo treatment I began to suffer from dry mouth and it continues today 10 years on. I tried all manner of products available at the chemist and treatments suggested by GP and Specialist. Nothing really worked very well, and what did was expensive. However, on a visit to my Dentist he suggested that I rinse my mouth several times a day with a half teaspoon of bicarb of soda in a glass of water. This kept away mouth ulcers (which are a side effect of the treatment regime I was on), kept my teeth in good order and helped to alleviate the dry mouth. I still do it today, when it annoys me. It won't cure the problem but sure as heck makes your mouth feel a whole lot better. A simple and cheap thing for you to try.
    Bluefox
    18th Feb 2019
    3:47pm
    I put half a teaspoon of Bi-carb in a bottle of water for night drinking. I need to drink about ever 1-2 hours and the Bi-carb helps with the PH. balance of the mouth, which can prolong the need to have more 'crowns'.
    Tzuki
    18th Feb 2019
    2:23pm
    I have Sjogrens Syndrome and have had a big problem just the past year with dry mouth, especially at night. I have also had problems with my teeth. It is not at all pleasant waking up in the middle of the night and feeling your tongue stuck like glue to the roof of your mouth. My eyes are extremely dry also and I am using eye drops at least 10 times a day most days. I have to have cateracts removed and this will be a problem healing-wise. So many people have Sjogrens Syndrome (I also have Hashimotos) but it seems that unless you are a suffer, no one knows anything about it.
    Bluefox
    18th Feb 2019
    3:56pm
    Try the eye gel, which lasts longer than drops. As you are asleep the fact that it blurs vision does not bother me. I overslept one night and woke up choking, my lips had stuck together and when I coughed I tore the skin off part of my bottom lip, which ofcourse turned into the biggest mouth ulcer. Oh, the joys of autoimmune diseases.
    Heskwith
    18th Feb 2019
    3:55pm
    I learned how to instantly reverse dry mouth, from a lady on the tennis court... why does this never get publicised: cross your wrists, so your fingers can comfortably each touch the opposite side of the jaw. Massage softly for a few moments, and joggle the jaw around.
    This stimulates the saliva glands somehow. Don't know how it works, but it works. Cheers.
    Heskwith
    18th Feb 2019
    3:59pm
    PS, should have added this: When massaging the jaw to irrigate the mouth, (my previous comment) the place to massage is at the hinge joint.


    Tags: dry, mouth, health,

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