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What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition associated with a reduced salivary flow. This is a very common symptom and frequently seen as a side effect of many medications.

You may also experience dry mouth when you are nervous or under stress. It is associated with ageing as well. Severe dry mouth can lead to difficulty in speech, chewing, and swallowing. Dry mouth also increases the risk of dental caries and other infections, such as oral thrush.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

The following are the signs and symptoms of dry mouth:

What are the main causes?

Dry mouth occurs due to several reasons:

  • Dehydration due to inadequate intake of fluids or due to medical conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes.
  • Breathing through the mouth (during night) is also responsible for dry mouth. Nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils, and allergic rhinitis are the conditions that force breathing through the mouth, leading to dryness.
  • Diabetes causes reduced salivary flow
  • Radiation therapy for cancer treatment
  • Smoking
  • Dry mouth may be a result of an autoimmune disease as well (Sjogren’s syndrome)
  • Drug induced

How is it diagnosed and treated?

It can be diagnosed by the following methods:

  • Sialometry – measuring the flow of saliva
  • Sialography – use of radiopaque dye in the salivary duct
  • Other Investigations – ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, biopsy of the salivary gland, etc.

There is no standard guideline for the treatment of dry mouth. However, you may try reducing the discomfort by the following means:

  • Salivary lozenges and salivary spray for immense relief
  • Salivary gland stimulants, such as chewing gums and organic acids
  • Increased fluid intake to reduce dryness of mouth
  • Systemic medicines

Differential diagnosis

  • Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition of dry mouth and dry eyes
  • Radiation therapy can result in mouth dryness
  • Physiological conditions, such as sleep deprivation, anxiety, and nervousness, may result in transient dryness of mouth
  • Hormonal disorders
  1. Medicines for Dry Mouth
  2. Doctors for Dry Mouth
Dr. Sunil Sharma

Dr. Sunil Sharma

General Physician
5 Years of Experience

Dr. Komal Poswal

Dr. Komal Poswal

General Physician
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Mahaveer Singh

Dr. Mahaveer Singh

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3 Years of Experience

Dr. Namra Sheeraz

Dr. Namra Sheeraz

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  1. Mohammed Alsakran Altamimi. Update knowledge of dry mouth- A guideline for dentists. Afr Health Sci. 2014 Sep; 14(3): 736–742. PMID: 25352896
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Dry Mouth
  3. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Dry mouth
  4. National institute of dental and craniofacial research. Dry Mouth. National institute of health. [internet].
  5. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Dry mouth syndrome

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