Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a common condition which is caused by reduced or completely lacking flow of saliva. It often afflicts older people and tends to be caused by widely used medications (for example, some antidepressants or drugs taken to lower blood pressure) or dehydration. Symptoms of conditions impacting the immune system (for example, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren’s syndrome) include xerostomia. Heavy use of alcohol and/or tobacco can cause dry mouth, as can problems related to stress or anxiety, or breathing through the mouth (snoring). Various conditions affecting the salivary glands can cause xerostomia. Particularly severe cases of dry mouth occur after radiotherapy of the head and neck region.
Severe xerostomia has a massive impact on the quality of life and can cause further health issues. Dry mouth makes chewing, swallowing and speaking difficult, sometimes impossible. Lack of saliva can lead to mouth sores, increased tooth decay and gum disease. Dry mouth can lead to altered taste (coated tongue) and greater risk of oral fungal infections (thrush). These effects together often lead to poor nutrition as well as giving a sense of isolation.
Optimised oral hygiene, optimised textures and temperatures of food, lubrication of foods and other practical tricks all help to cope with dry mouth.
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