Xerostomia, How to Battle Dry Mouth

Dry mouth or Xerostomia occurs when there is a decrease of saliva in the mouth. This can happen for a number of reasons, and sometimes you may not even notice. There is a range of dry mouth from slight to severe. Even if you don’t notice your dry mouth, your dentist or hygienist might. Some causes of dry mouth are:

  • Side effect of medications
  • Head & neck radiation
  • Result of disease ( i.e., Sjogren’s Syndrome, Hypertension, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS,
      Hepatitis C and/or Lymphoma)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Smoking
  • Dehydration

Saliva plays an important role in the oral cavity. Keeping tissues moist and lubricated helps prevent disease. Saliva acts as a buffer to acids in the mouth to prevent decay. It also helps us chew, talk and swallow. When saliva is decreased, we are at a much greater risk of developing tooth decay.

Decay can progress very quickly if dry mouth is not treated.

Treatment for xerostomia requires identifying the cause. If it’s due to a medication side effect, your dentist and/or hygienist can work with your physician to find a good alternative. Xerostomia as a result of smoking would obviously be helped by smoking cessation. If you’re a mouth breather, possible referral to an ENT may be helpful. If there isn’t much to be done to “cure” the dry mouth, there are steps that need to be taken to decrease the occurrence of decay at a high rate. These include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing fluoride via toothpaste, rinse and/or take home trays.
  • Maintaining periodic hygiene visits
  • Managing diet to decrease sugar intake.
  • Using a source of xylitol
  • Increasing water consumption
  • Practicing good oral hygiene 

Without addressing dry mouth, an individual may go from no cavities to many cavities in a matter of months, and from there the decay is much harder to control. If you suspect you have dry mouth whether or not you know the cause, bring it up at your next dental visit. The sooner it is addressed the better we are able to preserve your teeth! 



American Academy of Oral Medicine

Leave a Comment