A dry mouth is an experience that everyone has ever had and could resolve by drinking. But what if the mouth stays permanently dry or even other symptoms such as pain when chewing, swallowing or speaking are added? Then the doctor speaks of a xerostomia or dry mouth.

What is a dry mouth?

In cases where dry mouth is a long-term symptom that can not be cured by fluid intake, it is called xerostomia, a pathological dry mouth.

Dry mouth refers to the subjectively perceived dryness of the oral cavity due to insufficient saliva production or inadequate enzymes in the saliva.

If there is no longer sufficient saliva in the oral cavity, so important saliva functions fail, it leads to a disturbance of the sense of taste. In addition, due to the lack of enzymes, the oral cavity can not be adequately cleaned and protected, resulting in complications such as dental problems, bad breath, pain or frequent inflammation in the oral cavity.

In cases where dry mouth is a long-term symptom that can not be cured by hydration, it is called xerostomia, a pathological dry mouth that should be discussed with a doctor.

causes

The causes of dry mouth are varied and cause either a decreased saliva production or the altered salivary composition with the lack of important, the oral cavity protective enzymes.

Easy to correct, and therefore harmless, causes of dry mouth are lack of fluid and frequent, long mouth breathing, for example, in [colds].

The dry mouth can also occur as a side effect of medication. Diuretics, psychotropic drugs, anticholinergics, antiallergic drugs, antihypertensive drugs and atropine are known as causative drugs. The risk of disease increases with the number of medications to be taken, especially in elderly patients and worse general conditions. About 40 percent of over-60s are affected by xerostomia.

Other causes of xerostomia include impaired masticatory function caused by oral or dental diseases, fungal infections and mouth rot, autoimmune and metabolic disorders such as Sjögren's symptom or diabetes mellitus, emotional stress and mental illness, adrenal function disorders and salivary gland disorders. Irradiation and chemotherapy may also be the cause of dry mouth.

Diseases with this symptom

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • trench mouth
  • Sjogren's syndrome

Diagnosis & History

Since dry mouth can have various causes, patients should first visit a general practitioner. He will ask about the probable causes and other complaints. In addition, two examinations are necessary to make a diagnosis:

1. The measurement of the salivary flow rate, the most meaningful examination method. The doctor defines saliva production at rest and after stimulation.

2. The study of salivary glands and lymph nodes, oral mucosa and oral cavity.

If no clear cause can be found after this examination, further diagnostic procedures follow. These include the study of saliva in the laboratory, an exciter swab from the oral cavity and X-ray examinations of the skull. In some cases, X-ray of the salivary ducts with contrast agents will be necessary. A blood test can be done to rule out other possible causes of dry mouth.

Depending on the diagnosis, the general practitioner will refer you to the specialist responsible. With an early examination and diagnostics complications such as dental problems can usually be stopped because they are the basis of a good therapy of xerostomia.

complications

A dry mouth is caused, for example, by heavy smoking. High nicotine consumption can lead to chronic bronchitis. As a result, the respiratory tract becomes blocked and the affected person gets less air. In addition, as a result, the lungs may over-inflate and develop emphysema, aggravating respiratory distress.

This condition is also referred to as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and is associated with high mortality in Germany. Nicotine also breaks down the lungs, which also favors shortness of breath. In addition, the risk of lung cancer increases.

Also in the context of a Sjögren syndrome it can come to dryness in the mouth. In addition, 5 percent of those affected develop lymphoma (malignant lymphoma). Diabetes can also cause a dry mouth. The sequelae are feared. Diabetes causes clogging of smaller vessels and arterioles, resulting in a lack of blood flow, especially to the eye and kidneys.

It can thus lead to blindness of the affected diabetic (diabetic retinopathy), if the disease is not treated early. Even with the kidney it can come to a weakness, which can then end in a failure (diabetic nephropathy). At the foot nerves can be affected, the pain signals can no longer pass on and develop such an ulcer, since it is often not discovered.

When should you go to the doctor?

Persons who permanently suffer from a dry mouth should consult a doctor. Anyone who refrains from visiting the doctor at this point is at great risk. Food intake is severely impaired because the necessary saliva can no longer properly decompose ingested food. In addition, there is pain when swallowing and it can also cause injury to the mucosa.

Injuries of the mucous membrane can quickly develop infections, as bacteria and viruses can easily multiply in affected areas. Therefore, anyone who suffers from a dry mouth should pay attention to strict and meticulous oral hygiene. As a general rule, anyone who seeks early treatment with a permanently dry mouth is definitely on the safe side. This means that serious underlying diseases can be detected early enough so that suitable medication can be prescribed.

If there is already an inflammation in the mouth, a visit to the doctor is inevitable. It may even lead to the formation of an abscess, which can trigger blood poisoning without treatment. Of course, there is an acute danger in such a case, so a visit to the doctor may not be put on the back burner. A doctor can quickly find out the cause of a dry mouth and treat it accordingly.

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Treatment & Therapy

The dry mouth can only be treated symptomatically. The therapy depends on the cause, it must be treated triggering underlying diseases, and is to ensure adequate fluid intake.

Helpful, the salivation stimulating, sour drinks, sweets or chewing gum be, also the mouth should be rinsed regularly, with water or sugar-free tea.

If a drug causes xerostomia, the treating physician must decide whether it can be discontinued or replaced.

If these measures do not help, the patient can get relief from the dry mouth with mouthwashes, mouth gels or mouth sprays. In addition, there are artificial saliva solutions that are similar in composition to natural saliva and contain salivary enzymes important for the protection of the oral cavity.

Outlook & Forecast

A dry mouth can be treated with sufficient fluid and saliva-free foods without medical treatment. Sucking a candy or chewing chewing gum are considered stimulating ways to stimulate the flow of saliva and to counteract the dryness of the mouth.

In the case of a persistently dry mouth, which is triggered by the administration of medication, relief of the symptoms starts with the discontinuation of the remedy. The medicines should basically not be sold on one's own initiative. Consultation with the attending physician is necessary.

If diseases of the salivary glands or the oral mucous membrane are responsible for the dry mouth, there are good chances of recovery. Medical treatment leads to the desired success in most patients.

If a lymphatic gland disease is present, the prognosis of dry mouth depends on the disease. A viral infection or inflammation is treated with medication and usually leads within a few weeks to a full recovery. With a cancer illnesses are given good chances, if the diagnosis and treatment take place early. At a late stage or spread of the cancer there is danger to life.

If the dry mouth is triggered by heavy smoking, the regeneration of salivation and the cessation of nicotine consumption will occur. The same happens with the consumption of alcohol or other stimulating substances.

prevention

The dry mouth can not be prevented with sufficient protective measures. However, the patient should stay in close contact with their practitioner to discuss proper medication and dosage. In addition, regular dental checks are essential in order to recognize and treat dental problems occurring in good time. Thus, the dry mouth can not be cured, but be stopped in their course with Munschleimhautentzündungen and tooth discomfort.

You can do that yourself

A dry mouth can be caused by several causes. Accordingly, there are different interventions that can be integrated in everyday life to counteract the problem. A dry mouth can be significantly influenced by the diet. First and foremost, adequate hydration is important to moisturize the mucous membranes in the mouth. Recommended are water and tea. Acidic teas such as mallow or rosehip are especially stimulating. Foods such as fruits, soups and liquid dairy products can also promote salivation.

It is important to chew frequently during meals. The more often chewed, the more the saliva production is stimulated and the less dry the mouth is. There are foods that remove moisture from the oral mucosa. These include alcohol, coffee and very spicy foods. These should therefore be avoided as far as possible. Between meals, chewing sugar-free chewing gum or sucking sugar-free sweets is recommended. These also stimulate saliva production.

In addition to the nutritional factors, the ambient air also influences the dryness of the mucous membranes. It is important to ventilate regularly at home and at the workplace to counteract dry ambient air. Furthermore, it is necessary to be sufficiently in the fresh air. Smoking should be avoided in the best possible way. Nicotine inhibits blood circulation and has a negative effect on saliva production.

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