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A Dry, Pasty Mouth
Chronic dry mouth – which can also be accompanied by a thick, pasty feeling in the mouth – is a medical condition known as xerostomia, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 2. Chronic dry mouth can be a serious condition, as it may affect your dental health and your ability to eat food. Understanding the seriousness of dry mouth and how to treat it can help you keep your teeth healthy and restore your quality of life.
Xerostomia is caused when glands in your mouth stop producing saliva. There are a number of different reasons why this would happen, including certain medications you may be on, including over-the-counter medications. Antihistamines, medicine for high blood pressure, anti-diarrheals and decongestants are among the most likely medicinal culprits of xerostomia, according to MayoClinic.com 1. If you’re receiving cancer therapy, chemotherapy could play a part in chronic dry mouth. Nerve damage could also be the cause.
- Xerostomia is caused when glands in your mouth stop producing saliva.
- There are a number of different reasons why this would happen, including certain medications you may be on, including over-the-counter medications.
What Causes a Dry Mouth so Dry That You Cannot Talk?
A chronic dryness in the mouth is the classic symptom of xerostomia, because the saliva glands don’t produce any moisture, and the mouth gets dried out from being open and your breathing. Other symptoms include dry, cracked lips, bad breath and frequent sore throats. Some people also experience fungal infections in the mouth and difficulty speaking or swallowing because of the lack of saliva.
Xerostomia is more than just a nuisance and can have serious health effects over the long term. Saliva plays a large role in your dental health, sweeping away harmful bacteria that leads to tooth decay. When that saliva is absent, bacteria can gather on the teeth, breaking them down and leading to plaque and gum disease as well. Lack of saliva can also lead to an infection in the mouth from fungal growth.
- Xerostomia is more than just a nuisance and can have serious health effects over the long term.
- When that saliva is absent, bacteria can gather on the teeth, breaking them down and leading to plaque and gum disease as well.
Sudden Dry Mouth
Your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions about your dental history and what medications you are on to help determine the exact cause of the xerostomia to properly treat it. He may order blood tests or an imaging scan to look at your salivary glands for signs of nerve damage.
Because certain medications are the usual cause of xerostomia, your doctor may have you switch medications and see if that helps your condition. Certain prescription drugs such as pilocarpine and cevimeline also help stimulate saliva production in the mouth. There are also steps you can take on your own to help stimulate saliva production and flush bacteria out of your mouth if you experience xerostomia. Chew sugar-free gum, especially after meals, to rid your mouth of excess food and bacteria. Use fluoride toothpaste and a fluoride rinse several times a day to help get rid of bacteria and strengthen your teeth. Breathe through your nose as much as possible and consider installing a humidifier in your bedroom to aid in keeping your mouth from drying out while you sleep.
- Because certain medications are the usual cause of xerostomia, your doctor may have you switch medications and see if that helps your condition.
- There are also steps you can take on your own to help stimulate saliva production and flush bacteria out of your mouth if you experience xerostomia.
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- MayoClinic.com: Dry Mouth
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: Dry Mouth
- American Dental Association (ADA). Xerostomia (Dry Mouth). Department of Scientific Information, ADA Science Institute. Updated July 9, 2019.
- Bartels C. Xerostomia. The Oral Cancer Foundation. Updated October 15, 2018
- Barnhart MK, Robinson RA, Simms VA, et al. Treatment toxicities and their impact on oral intake following non-surgical management for head and neck cancer: a 3-year longitudinal study. Support Care Cancer. 2018;26(7):2341-2351. doi:10.1007/s00520-018-4076-6
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candida Infections Of The Mouth, Throat, And Esophagus | Fungal Diseases | CDC. National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases (DFWED). Updated November 13, 2019.
- V Sankar, N Rhodus, & the AAOM Web Writing Group. Xerostomia. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. Updated October 15, 2015.
- Rusthen S, Kristoffersen AK, Young A, Galtung HK, Petrovski BÉ, Palm Ø et al. Dysbiotic salivary microbiota in dry mouth and primary Sjögren's syndrome patients. PLoS One. 2019 Jun 18;14(6):e0218319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218319.
- V Sankar, N Rhodus & the AAOM Web Writing Group. Dry Mouth. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. Updated October 15, 2015.
- American Dental Association. Dry Mouth. Mouth Healthy. Updated January 2019.
- Men K, Geng H, Zhong H, Fan Y, Lin A, Xiao Y. A deep learning model for predicting xerostomia due to radiotherapy for head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma in the RTOG 0522 clinical trial. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2019 Jun 12. pii: S0360-3016(19)30834-X. doi:10.1016/j.ijrobp.2019.06.009.
- National Institutes of Health. Dry Mouth. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Updated January 2019.
James Patterson specializes in health and wellness topics, having written and produced material for the National Institutes of Health, the President's Cancer Panel and an Inc. 500 Hall of Fame company. He is also a former sportswriter with writing experience in basketball, baseball, softball, golf and other popular sports.