Dry Mouth Syndrome

A report by Karin Jordan, M.D.


Saliva is one of those things you don’t appreciate until it is gone!
Saliva moistens the mouth, and that moisture helps you talk, eat,
swallow and digest your food and keep your teeth and gums
healthy. When the body fails to produce enough saliva, the arising
condition is called xerostomia or, in every day language, dry
mouth. It is a surprisingly common disorder these days, although
you don’t hear people talk much about it. It affects at least 3 out
of every 10 adults in the United States. How does dry mouth
come about? It was believed that old age caused a reduction in
salivary flow. Now it is known that the most common causes of
gland dysfunction are related to different medications. This
explains why dry mouth is a common problem for the elderly –
they use proportionally more drugs than other age groups. Many
older adults like to suck on candy and may not be aware of the
reason: a dry mouth. 

Causes of dry mouth
You don’t have to be elderly to experience dry mouth. There are
more than 400 prescription and nonprescription drugs that list
dry mouth as a major side effect. Among these are beta-blockers,
diuretics and other hypertension and heart medications,
antihistamines, tranquilizers and antidepressants, painkillers,
spasmolytics and anticholinergic drugs for hyperacidity of the
stomach, as well as cytotoxic drugs used for chemotherapy. 
Millions of people use these drugs daily are likely to notice
discomfort, if not severe suffering. Many of us, however, are not
aware of dry mouth as a medical problem, only as an additional
inconvenience to the original disease. This may be a reason why
dry mouth is not talked about frequently. 
Alcohol and tobacco are both drugs that will make your mouth dry.
The alcohol in mouthwashes can have a drying effect and can
irritate the mouth.

Other common causes of dry mouth are chemotherapy and
radiation treatments. During the course of radiation therapy on
the head and neck, the salivary glands are often damaged and
destroyed. Initially the quality of the saliva changes, then saliva
flow drops dramatically.
There are a few diseases that affect the salivary glands directly.
Sjögren’s Syndrome, primarily affecting postmenopausal women,
is the most common. Lupus, diabetes, infections and stone
formation in the salivary ducts are less frequent conditions that
also cause dry mouth discomfort.

Dry mouth affects everyday functions.
The dry mouth syndrome is a constant discomfort that affects
basic functions of your life, such as eating, talking and sleeping.
It is often socially embarrassing despite its seemingly trivial nature.

In its most severe form, dry mouth prevents one from speaking a
few words without drinking liquids constantly. The mucous
membranes stick together, or are so raw that you cannot move
your tongue and your mouth freely. Your voice may even feel like
it’s “on fire”. 
Eating solid food is another challenge. Chewing and swallowing is
difficult when there is not enough moisture. The eating process
can be so painful that sufferers may not eat enough and do not get
the nutrients they need. Digestion may also become impaired by
the lack of saliva, which normally provides enzymes that break
down food, resulting in malnutrition. 

Dry mouth also affects your teeth. Whether you have your own
teeth or you have dentures, dry mouth is likely to cause serious
dental problems. Saliva continually rinses the mouth, reduces
bacterial growth and protects your teeth. Without these benefits
plaque builds quickly, gums may become infected and tooth decay
begins. Dentures may cause irritation because of the sensitivity
of the mucous membranes, changing the adherence of the dentures.

Despite problems with eating and conversing, sleeping appears be
the biggest problem for sufferers. The discomfort from dry mouth
prevents victims from getting a good night’s sleep, because they
have to drink constantly. Sufferers of dry mouth get tired and
easily depressed, missing the healing and energizing effect of a
good sleep.

What can you do for relief?
There are helpful tips on how to cope with dry mouth such as
carrying a water bottle wherever you go, chewing gum or candy,
avoiding sugared and caffeinated drinks, spicy, salty or acidic
foods, eating food and drink beverages at room temperature
meals, and staying away from alcohol and tobacco. You can
moisten your meals with sauces and make the food as smooth and
“juicy” as possible.

Remedies are available on the market. Sprays claim to moisturize
the mucous membranes. However, they appear to clog easily, are
awkward to use and draw attention to the person using them. The
sprays don’t stimulate the natural saliva production, and they
don’t provide the saliva enzymes for food digestion. As a result,
the relief is short-lived. A prescription medication for xerostomia
exists but carries warnings for side effects to the heart, eyes and
lungs, as well as precautions regarding gastrointestinal
disturbances, mental confusion and more. 

Another more convenient remedy
SalivaSure®, a non- prescription saliva stimulating lozenge activates
remaining function in the salivary glands by physiological
stimulation. As a result, the secretion of the patient’s saliva, with
all its important components, is promoted. It gives instant relief,
as well as long-lasting effect, and it facilitates chewing, speaking,
and sleeping. Additionally, it prevents mucous membranes from
sticking together, improves the adherence of dentures, and
relieves bad taste. The effectiveness of SalivaSure® has been shown in
several clinical studies in Sweden and England where it was
developed by dentists and doctors. There are no side effects from
the lozenge, it’s safe for long-term use, and manufacturers say it
protects patients from dental caries due to a buffer system that
protects the teeth. The lozenge contains Sorbitol, a substance
known even to prevent tooth decay, a claim recently approved by
FDA. The taste is fresh from citrus flavorings. It can be used
according to need, to a maximum of one tablet per hour. It does
not over-stimulate or wear out the salivary glands, which
sometimes happens with chewing gum.


Axelsson and U-B. Larsson: The Saliva Stimulating
Tablet SST in Long-term Clinical Trial. Department of
Dental care, Karlstad, Sweden, 1991. 
Björnström, T. Axell, D. Birkhed: Comparison Between
Saliva Stimulants and Saliva Substitutes in Patients with
Symptoms Related to Dry Mouth. Swed. Dent. J. 14:
153-161, 1990.
Ericsson and A. Lindberg: Clinical Trial of a Saliva
Stimulating Tablet. Tandläkartidningen 1982 (Sweden).
Gobar and A. Harju: Clinical Trials of SST: A New
Saliva-stimulating Tablet. Östersund Hospital, Sweden.
Rhodus, K. Moller, S. Colby and J. Bereuter: Dysphagia in
Patients with Three Different Etiologies of Salivary Gland
Dysfunction. ENT Journal. Volume 74, no 1,1995.
Senahayake F, Piggott K, Hamilton-Miller JM.T. A ilot
Study of Salix SST (Saliva-stimulating Lozenges) in
Post-irradiation Xerostomia. Medical Research and
Opinion, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1998, 155-159.

                             A refreshing and
                             convenient lozenge
                             recommended by
                             physicians and dentists
                             to bring comfort to their              
                             patients who suffer from
                             dry mouth.                                                      
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