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"Cotton Mouth"

posted Mar 8, 2014, 6:29 AM by Dr. Elham Khajavi

Experiencing a “dry mouth” is never fun.  Especially when it keeps you up all night feeling like your mouth is full of cotton balls.  The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia  (ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah). This condition occurs when your salivary glands fail to produce sufficient saliva.  You may experience dry mouth infrequently and then only for short time.  This is an inconvenience and may make normally simple tasks such as chewing, eating, swallowing and talking very difficult.

However, if the condition becomes chronic then it is a threat to your health.  It is well established that long term lack of sufficient saliva in the mouth will contribute to tooth decay.  The mouth depends on saliva production to help with cleansing the teeth and removing harmful bacteria within the oral cavity.   When saliva production is reduced, the risk of tooth decay increases.

            There are many causes for xerostomia.  Most often it is a side effect from the use of certain prescribed and over the counter (OTC) medications.  More than 1,800 such medications list dry mouth as a side effect.  Many are common medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants.  Dry mouth is also caused by such deceases as Parkinson’s, Sjogren’s Syndrome and diabetes.  Any patient who has undergone radiation therapy to the head or neck or chemotherapy may also experience less saliva production and be more prone  to developing dry mouth. 

            Fortunately, if you do suffer from xerostomia there are treatment options available for you.   Your dentist may prescribe medications designed to correct the problem.  In addition there are OTC products that have proven successful.  Also, some self-care home remedies work well for many including drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Learning what causes xerostomia and the treatment options available will help you deal with this annoying problem. Remember, good oral hygiene at home and regular dental check-ups will help keep your mouth healthy!