Basically, Xerostomia refers to a persistent or chronic dry mouth syndrome. Furthermore, it can be used as a subjective term of the mouth’s dryness, which is mainly associated with a reduced salivary flow and/or change in the composition of saliva.



The normal function of the salivary gland and production of saliva is necessary for moisture and lubrication of the mouth and throat. Saliva contains essential proteins and enzymes that start the digestive process and improve taste sensitivity. Nevertheless, the most important function of  adequate saliva (and salivary proteins and enzymes) maintain the health of the tooth enamel  and fight bacterial infections in gums, mouth and throat. Without adjust moisture and protection the tissue linings of the mouth and throat will dry out, ulcerate, crack  and become a potential site for infection.


Exploring the Cause of Dry Mouth

According to Dalhousie University, Canada, dry mouth affects 60% of older adults. This condition of dry mouth has been highly attributed to the reduced of function (hypo-function) from the salivary glands. This salivary gland hypo-function has further been described by medical specialists as a specific reduction in individual salivary flow rates. And while the estimated salivary rate of a person is 0.3-0.4 ml per minute, Xerostomia puts the patient at a significant decrease to less than 0.1 ml per minute, thereby rendering their mouths dry, sore, prone to ulceration and a serious cause bad breath. While saliva can play a major role in digestion and maintaining good oral and dental hygiene (including maintaining fresh breath) , this condition has been on the rise internationally, as the global population ages. In addition to reduced salivary flow rates from age and mediations, etc., oral dryness has also an additional significant cause, which results from improper breathing technique. This is caused by partial  obstruction of the upper respiratory tract such as the nasal sinus. This condition can result from seasonal allergies, obesity that causes undue pressure on the diaphragm, and lifestyle such as smoking.


Other medical conditions that result in dry mouth often involve some form of fluid loss such as that associated with diarrhea, vomiting or fever. However these conditions are typically transient and the symptoms of dry mouth resolves quickly after one’s health improves.

Our salivary glands naturally slow their output of saliva with age and  so age is considered a natural cause of xerostomia. However, older individuals are also likely to be taking medications for age-related health conditions and many of these medications can cause xerostomia (there are over 400 prescribed and Over the counter medications, which are known to list dry mouth in their side effects). Dry mouth is also associated with diabetes and so subjects that experience unusual thirst and dry mouth and has not previously been diagnosed, should seek the advice of a Doctor to rule out the onset of diabetes.

In rarer cases, conditions such as salivary gland aplasia, cholinergic dysfunction, hyperparathyroidism and human immune deficiency virus also causes chronic dry mouth. Increasingly, Xerostomia is being shown as the cause of other symptoms. Such as cracked, sore and dry lips in more serious cases, left untreated that can result in oral mucositis. In the most severe cases’ patients with untreated xerostomia will start losing weight as they try to avoid the pain of eating food.

Treatment of Dry Mouth

Drinking water can be a useful step towards reversing the immediate effects of Dry Mouth it remains a short term soultion. There are more sophisticated products for the management of dry mouth that include specialized chewing gum and oral rinses that replace the lost saliva enzymes along with other ingredients designed to keep the mouth moisten and well-lubricated far better than water alone. Unluckily, a successful treatment of the condition is quite difficult to achieve and often unsatisfactory and so the best solution is a long-term management plan. This may involve finding any correctable cause and then eliminating it completely, but in most cases, it has been somewhat hard to correct treatment is generally symptomatic.