Xerostomia refers to an abnormally dry oral cavity because of insufficient salivation (hyposalivation) to keep the oral mucosa (lining of the mouth) moist. Dry mouth is a common side effect of many drugs; other causes include salivary gland infection (e.g., sialadenitis), autoimmune diseases (e.g., Sjögren syndrome), congenital conditions (e.g., sarcoidosis), radiotherapy, or infectious diseases. Xerostomia is also a secondary symptom of many other conditions such as renal diabetes and diabetes insipidus, metabolic conditions such as diabetes mellitus, central nervous system diseases, and abnormal gland innervations, as witnessed in patients with different types of depression or psychoses. Major and continued loss of fluids (e.g., loss of blood, chronic diarrhea, hydration disorders, and diuretic therapies) can also lead to xerostomia. Any long-term condition that affects the ability to chew can cause xerostomia. A painful oral mucosa or dental conditions can cause regression of the glandular cells, leading to xerostomia. Recurring dry mouth in older adults has nothing to do with aging; instead, this is more likely to be caused by a systemic illness or external factors such as high doses of a particular medication.
Patients with xerostomia do not demonstrate the typical gathering of fluids at the base of the mouth. The mucosa is fiery red and sensitive, and the patient usually suffers from bad breath. If the patient has been suffering from xerostomia for a long period of time, multiple carious lesions tend to develop.
Another important symptom of insuffcicent salivation-related disorder, besides dryness or roughness of the mouth (tongue sticking to the gums), is increased thirst. Patients have also reported the following symptoms:
problems when chewing dry food
swallowing difficulty (dry swallowing)
impairment of sense of taste
impairment of speech (caused by adhesion of the mucosa)
painful oral lesions and a feeling of numbness
a burning sensation in the tongue or mouth
problems with a prosthesis (ill-fitting, not remaining in place, or pressure-related lesions)
Treatment is determined depending on the origin of the problem. Symptomatic treatment such as a saliva replacement solution may be administered. Good oral hygiene is also essential. If necessary, saliva stimulation through medications may be also attempted.Xerostomia