Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry mouth (clinically termed xerostomia) is a condition in which your salivary glands can no longer produce normal saliva flow due to mouth breathing while sleeping, medications, age, dehydration, illnesses, cancer treatment and more.

Saliva production is an important bodily function as it helps protect the mouth from infection by controlling bacteria, keeping the mouth moist and clean, and neutralizing the acids produced by dental plaque. Not only does it wash away dead mouth lining cells and food particles that have accumulated on the tongue, gums and teeth, but also it helps with digestion by making it possible to chew, taste, and swallow food.

Dry Mouth
Credit: PubMed

Dry mouth affects about 20% of all people in the world and is more prevalent in women than men. The feeling of dry mouth reduces quality of life, but there are two consequences of dry mouth that are even worse. First, dry mouth disturbs sleep because saliva flow is always lowest while sleeping, which affects quality of life all day long. Second, dry mouth causes rampant tooth decay.

Dry mouth is a very common condition and is often seen as a side effect of various types of medications or as a symptom of a disease, such as Diabetes, Sjögren's syndrome, Scleroderma, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Other factors that may contribute to dry mouth include mouth breathing during sleep, dehydration, use of CPAP machines for sleep apnea, or head and neck radiation therapy. Please visit our causes of dry mouth page for more information.

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Mouth

You may be suffering from dry mouth if you are experiencing the following signs and symptoms:

  • Tooth decay – without proper salivary production to wash away food particles and bacteria from the tongue, gums, and teeth and to neutralize acids produced by bacteria, tooth decay may be more common and progress much quicker than it would have in other circumstances
  • Disturbed sleep from unpleasant mouth sensations
  • White film on the tongue (also known as oral thrush) – this coating is a buildup of sloughed material due to excessive growth of a normal yeast fungus which sometimes flourishes in a dry mouth
  • Rough dry tongue
  • Altered taste sensation (e.g., a metallic taste)
  • Bad breath
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth
  • Thick or stringy saliva
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing, especially when eating dry foods
  • Difficulty wearing dentures, especially when swallowing or speaking
  • Mouth sourness or ulcers
  • Dry, sore, and cracked lips in the corners of the mouth
  • Dehydration

Complications from Dry Mouth

Many people suffering from dry mouth often don’t notice it until their saliva levels drop by 50% (below which is intolerable). If left untreated, dry mouth can contribute to both minor and serious health problems.

Common problems stemming from dry mouth include serious tooth decay, disturbed sleep, as dry mouth is worst at night, a constant burning sensation in the throat, difficulty speaking or swallowing, dry nasal passages, gum disease, and oral infections (such yeast infections that attack the tongue).

There are a number of dry mouth products on the market out there to relieve dry mouth symptoms, including toothpastes, mints, gels, and mouthwash. However, for the most effective dry mouth relief, XyliMelts oral adhering discs can be applied to your gums at night to stimulate saliva and provide all day relief. Please remember that while OraCoat® XyliMelts ® discs can help treat and provide temporary relief for dry mouth symptoms, including while sleeping, they are not a cure for the underlying causes of dry mouth.