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If your spit keeps away

Remedies for xerostomia

A person’s large and small salivary glands produce about half to one-and-a-half a litre of saliva daily. If they no longer function properly a »dry mouth« will develop.
Marta Campbell
15.07.2020  12:30 Uhr
Remedies for xerostomia

People who snore and those who are forced to sleep with an open mouth due to a cold often experience the unpleasant feeling of a dry mouth. Doctors refer to a permanent condition of a dry mouth as xerostomia. Persons affected often have a sensation that their tongue sticks to the palate. Speaking, chewing and swallowing are made difficult. The sense of taste is also impaired. Saliva enhances the impulses to the taste buds. Patients suffering from xerostomia therefore often have the need to season their meals more. If the saliva can no longer fulfil its function, the risk of inflammations and infections of the oral mucosa will increase. In most cases, the first signs are bad breath.

Teeth can be affected too, as without a sufficient quantity of saliva the self-cleaning ability is reduced. Consequently, an increased amount of sediments and plaque are formed on the teeth. Furthermore, the buffering effect and the remineralisation of the dental enamel are impaired so that caries has it easier.

Especially at an old age

The most frequent cause of xerostomia is simply an advanced age. The production of saliva decreases by natural process with the years of life. Unnoticeable at first, the complaints and constraints become clearer over time. Experts assume that about one third of the elderly living in care homes are affected. As a result of a disease, xerostomia occurs within the Sjögren syndrome. This autoimmune disorder is directed against the cells of the salivary and lacrimal glands, resulting in extreme dryness of the mouth and the eyes. The mucous membranes of nose, larynx, bronchial tubes and the vagina can also be affected.

In the case of cancerous diseases in the mouth, jaws and throat area it is normally necessary to operate and/or to use a radiotherapy treatment. If in such a case the salivary glands are removed or are permanently damaged by the radiation, the result will be lifelong xerostomia. Not least, pharmacotherapy can also lead to a dry mouth. If a customer complains at the pharmacy about a dry mouth, it is essential that PTA and the pharmacist enquire if and which medication the customer is taking. Xerostomia is relatively frequently an unwanted effect of for example antidepressants, benzodiazepines, neuroleptics, antihistamines of the first generation, anticholinergics, Beta-2 sympathomimetics as well as of some cancer medication.


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