By Sam E. Ruvinov, D.D.S.

Many patients ask me about so-called “dry mouth syndrome” or xerostomia, speaking scientifically.  Xerostomia is a condition when there is no or very little saliva in the mouth.  Some patients complain of a burning sensation and even loss of taste caused by dry mouth.

The role of saliva cannot be over-estimated.  It helps us to chew and swallow food.  Also, it plays an important role is our dental health.  Saliva is a source of minerals for teeth.  It maintains a non-acidic environment in the mouth and has a bactericidal effect.  Flow of saliva helps to clean the spaces in between teeth.

Saliva is produced by salivary glands.  There are three major pairs of salivary glands surrounding the mouth and secreting saliva into the mouth via ducts.  In addition to those major glands, the lining of the oral cavity is composed of  a mucus membrane that contains many minor accessory salivary glands.  About 90 percent of the saliva is coming from major salivary glands.  There are many factors that can affect the normal amount of saliva flow.

The most common reason for diminished saliva flow is the side effect of many drugs.  For example, some of the drugs are used in treatment of hypertension, depression, and kidney disease.  Excessive smoking and alcohol use can cause severe dryness of the mouth.  Xerostomia is one of the most common side effects of head and neck radiation therapy in cancer treatment.  Decreased salivary flow can be caused by salivary gland disease, such as bacterial or viral infection of the glands.  Allergic reactions can produce sever dry mouth syndrome as well.

Rapid increase of the decay rate is associated with xerostomia.  Oral hygiene must be scrupulously maintained.  Proper brushing and flossing techniques using fluoride toothpaste and alcohol free mouthwash is highly recommended.  Patients who wear dentures can apply a small amount of petroleum jelly inside the denture to avoid the irritation of oral mucus caused by dry surface of the denture.  If any sore areas develop the dentures should be adjusted or remade to alleviate the problem.  Warm water rinses with lemon juice drops added can stimulate the production of saliva.  Over the counter saliva substitutes might be helpful.

If you feel persistent dryness in the mouth and you don’t know why, ask your doctor about it or call Kingston Dental at 314 487-0052 for a consultation.

Periodontal infection gradually erodes the jaw bones and can cause teeth to loosen and fall out.  Don’t postpone your next dental visit!