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Xerostomia
Health Guide
What is Xerostomia
Xerostomia or dry mouth is less of a disease than a manifestation of a disease process. Salivary gland dysfunction caused by disease processes such as Sjogren's Syndrome can cause a reduction in the production of saliva creating the uncomfortable sensation of a dry mouth.

What happens when you have xerostomia?
The problems associated with xerostomia comes from the fact that the natural functions of saliva are diminished due to the reduced production of saliva. Saliva serves to:
  • Lubricate the oral mucosa (inner skin lining of the mouth), keeping it moist and supple.
  • Lubricate the passage of food by allowing the formation of a bolus (ball) of food.
  • Reduce the concentration of acids or sugars by diluting them.
  • Protect the body by causing the agglomeration of potentially harmful bacteria - saliva contains the immunoglobin sIgA.
  • Allows the dissolution of chemicals in food to facilitate taste.

    The reduction of saliva production therefore causes:
  • increased dental decay
  • recurrent oral yeast infection
  • difficulty in speech
  • difficulty in chewing
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • burning mouth
  • change/ loss of taste quality
  • recurrent salivary gland infection

    What Can I Do?
    While there is no true cure for xerostomia, certain drugs and rinses can make the situation more palatable.

    Pilocarpine

    Pilocarpine is a drug used to stimulate the production of saliva from the salivary glands. It works well if the lack of saliva is caused by the dysfunction of those glands situated under the tongue and underneath the floor of the mouth, but works less satisfactorily for the reduction of saliva caused by the parotid (cheek over the angle of the jaw) gland dysfunction. Side effects include nausea, increased sweating and dizziness. See your dentist for more information regarding pilocarpine.

    Salivary Substitutes

    There are a few salivary substitutes that mimic the behavior of saliva and gives temporary relief of up to 2-3 hours at a time. Research into longer acting washes means that a reliable salivary substitute should be available in a few years time.

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