Dry mouth is an annoying condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. Known as xerostomia among medical professionals, the condition involves a lack of saliva in the mouth, making it hard for the patient to talk or eat. It is important for patients with dry mouth to seek treatment when they first notice symptoms, as the problem can lead to halitosis, loss of tooth enamel, gingivitis and an increased number of cavities. Early dry mouth treatment can prevent patients from having to visit the dentist later on. The condition is very treatable, but it requires early detection on the part of the patient.
There are a variety of treatments available for those suffering from dry mouth. Treatments are not one-size-fits-all; they will differ from patient to patient based on the cause and severity of the condition. First, the doctor or dentist will try to identify the cause and remove that factor from the patient's life. The medical professional may also prescribe a topical medication or mouthwash to get rid of the symptoms. Dry mouth treatments for various types of xerostomia are described below:
Often, the cause of dry mouth is quite simple: dehydration. If a patient is suffering from dry mouth because of dehydration, he or she will be advised to drink more water, eat foods with high water content and limit the intake of sodium. If the problem continues, the physician may need to do a further evaluation of the patient to determine the origin of the dehydration. Sometimes, persistent dehydration indicates an underlying problem. If the doctor is able to determine this problem, then the treatment of that condition or disease will also serve as a treatment for dry mouth.
Dry mouth may be a symptom of undiagnosed or poorly treated diabetes. Diabetes is rarely diagnosed based on dry mouth alone. Usually, the patient will come in to the doctor with several complaints such as frequent infections, weight loss, extreme hunger and thirst, increased urination, blurred vision and a tingling sensation in the hands and feet. If the patient has several of the previously-mentioned symptoms along with dry mouth, he or she may be dealing with hyperglycemia. The doctor will either direct the patient to eat a low carbohydrate diet, take insulin or another medication or participate in a combination of the treatments.
If the patient complaining of dry mouth already has been diagnosed with diabetes, chances are that the current treatment is insufficient. The doctor will need to check for other symptoms and determine the patient's current level of blood sugar before diagnosing a stronger treatment regimen. If other common symptoms of diabetes are not present alongside the dry mouth, the condition may have been caused by a diabetic medication. Several medications intended for diabetes treatment have the unfortunate side effect of dry mouth. The doctor may decide to switch the medication or alter the dose.
Drug-Induced Dry Mouth
The first step in treating drug-induced dry mouth is figuring out exactly which medication is causing the problem. The patient needs to inform the doctor of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications he or she is currently taking. This drug log needs to include the dosage, the name of the prescribing doctor and when the patient first started taking the medication. Once the list of drugs is completed, the doctor will be able to identify which drugs in the list are known for causing dry mouth. If possible, the doctor will prescribe a substitute medication that does not cause xerostomia. Sometimes, however, such a substitute is not available. In some cases, just reducing the dose of the medication is enough to eliminate dry mouth. If this doesn't work, the doctor may decide to prescribe drugs such as Salagen and Evoxac. Both of these medications are highly effective in stimulating the salivary glands.
A few patients experiencing dry mouth may be diagnosed with Sjögren's Syndrome. This autoimmune disease is not all that common, but one of its main symptoms is dry mouth. Over 90 percent of diagnosed patients are female, making the condition especially rare for males. Sjögren's Syndrome is caused by inflammation of various glands and tissues in the body. The salivary gland will either harden or become tender, inhibiting the production of saliva. There is no cure for Sjögren's Syndrome, but various prescriptions and therapies can be used to minimize the symptoms. Physicians often prescribe Salagen and Evoxac, along with special toothpastes and rinses. The patient may also be advised to drink more water and suck on lozenges or glycerin swabs.
Chemotherapy and radiation can damage the salivary glands and thus reduce the amount of saliva produced. Obviously, it is inadvisable to discontinue cancer treatment just because a patient is dealing with dry mouth. Instead, doctors will focus on providing dry mouth treatment in order to ease the symptoms. Many cancer patients use dry mouth rinses and sprays on a frequent basis. Others prefer to take over-the-counter saliva substitutes.
There are certain treatments that can help patients with dry mouth regardless of the cause. One such treatment is keeping a water bottle handy and taking frequent sips from it. Also, avoiding diet sodas and foods high in sodium can help to prevent dry mouth from developing or getting worse. Chewing sugar free gum can also be helpful in stimulating the salivary glands. Doctors and dentists often prescribe special mouthwashes and toothpastes for patients with dry mouth. It is possible to find many of these products over-the-counter, as well as dry mouth sprays and moisturizing gels.
Dry mouth affects millions of Americans every day. The condition is almost always a symptom of an underlying problem, be it dehydration, diabetes or Sjögren's Syndrome. There are a variety of treatments available for patients suffering from dry mouth. The efficacy of a given treatment will depend on the condition's cause and the severity.