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Normal production of saliva in the mouth is essential to a number of functions in our body. The process of digestion actually starts with the salivary enzymes as soon as food enters the mouth. Our saliva also contains a number of elements that help maintain a neutral pH in the mouth and thus protect the teeth from demineralization. Certain antibodies are also concentrated in saliva and play a vital role in keeping the oral tissues protected from potential pathogens.
Thus, it can be a big problem for the body when the production of saliva reduces or even stops completely. This condition is commonly referred to as a dry mouth, or scientifically as Xerostomia.
Symptoms Associated With Dry Mouth
- Constantly feeling thirsty
- Dryness of the mouth and the tongue. The texture of the mouth also becomes rougher, almost sandpapery. Some people also complain of a "sticky" feeling.
- The appearance of whitish growth on the surface of the tongue.
- Cracking of the sides of the mouth, near the corner of the lips.
- Difficulty in speaking
- Chewing food becomes difficult and the tolerance to any sort of rough texture, spices and extreme temperatures is greatly reduced.
- Halitosis or bad breath
- A burning sensation in the mouth
What Causes Dry Mouth?
There are a number of things that can cause a dry mouth, ranging from dehydration to genetic disorders.
If there is a reduction in the amount of water content in the body then there is a reduction in the amount of saliva that is formed. This is an easily reversible condition where the amount of salivary production will return back to normal as soon as the body gets rehydrated.
Side effects Of Medication
Some classes of drugs that have been known to affect salivary production include antidepressants, antihistamines, and drugs used in the treatment of anxiety, diarrhea, obesity, high blood pressure and asthma. Over the counter sprays and nasal decongestants can also cause a reduction in the amount of saliva being formed.
If patients do find themselves having a reaction to a medication, then they should get in touch with their doctor and let them know. Different classes of drugs can be utilized which do not have that side effect without compromising the aims of treatment.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects almost each and every part of the body. Small blood vessels and nerve endings are particularly susceptible to damage and this is what is blamed for the reduced efficiency of the salivary glands. Blood flow to the major salivary glands is affected, resulting in a reduction in their ability to produce saliva and thus causing a dry mouth. Plenty of studies have shown that there is a reduction in the number of small blood vessels in poorly controlled diabetics as compared to healthy individuals or well-controlled diabetics.
A reduction in the amount of saliva along with the increased susceptibility to infection as seen in diabetics is a cocktail for disaster, since the patient is almost certain to develop advanced tooth and gum trouble.