Saliva is a natural production that helps swallowing, talking, taste, and protects the soft tissues.
Saliva is produced from the Salivary Glands of which there are six major glands and thousands of tiny glands in your lips, cheeks and palate.
Where saliva is reduced there is a risk of dental decay (caries), bad breath, altered taste, and sore mouths.
Saliva may be reduced by radiotherapy or chemotherapy, various drugs particularly the anti hypertensives, in diabetes, in anxiety, stress and depression, or in salivary gland disease. Ageing also reduces the production of saliva.
We will often diagnose the problem on appearance, however in some cases further investigation by your GP or by referral to the Oral Medicine Clinic is required. This may include:
• Blood tests
• Eye tests
• Salivary flow rate tests
• Biopsy of your salivary glands
10 steps towards managing a dry mouth
1) Sip on water and other non-sugary fluids throughout the day. Rinse with water after meals. Keep water at your bedside.
2) Replace missing saliva with salivary substitutes ( e.g. Artificial Saliva, Glandosane, Luborant, Biotene Oralbalance, AS Saliva Orthana, Salivace, Saliveze). Alcohol-free mouthrinses (BioXtra and Biotène), or moisturising gels (Oralbalance, BioXtra) may help.
3) Stimulate saliva with sugar-free chewing gums ( e.g. EnDeKay, Orbit, Biotène dry mouth gum or BioXtra chewing gum) or diabetic sweets or Salivix or SST if advised or drugs that stimulate salivation if advised by a Specialist.
4) Always take water or non-alcoholic drinks with meals and avoid spicy, dry or hard crunchy foods such as biscuits, or dunk in liquids. Take small bites and eat slowly.
5) Eat soft creamy foods (casseroles, soups), or cool foods with a high liquid content - melon, grapes, or ice cream. Moisten foods with gravies, sauces, extra oil, margarine, salad dressings, sour cream, Mayonnaise or yogurt. Pineapple has an enzyme that helps clean the mouth.
6) Avoid anything that may worsen dryness, such as;
drugs, unless they are essential (e.g. antidepressants)
alcohol (including in mouthwashes)
caffeine (coffee, some soft drinks)
7)Protect against dental caries by avoiding sugary foods/drinks and by
reducing sugar intake (avoid snacking and eating last thing at night)
avoiding sticky foods such as toffee
keeping your mouth very clean (twice daily toothbrushing and flossing)
using a fluoride toothpaste
using fluoride gels or mouthwashes (0.05% fluoride) daily before going to bed
having regular dental checks.
8)Protect against thrush, gum problems and halitosis by
keeping your mouth very clean
keeping your mouth as moist as possible
rinsing twice daily with chlorhexidine (e.g. Chlorohex, Corsodyl, Eludril) or triclosan (e.g. Plax)
brushing or scraping your tongue
keeping dentures out at night
disinfect dentures (eg Steradent)
use antifungals if recommended by Specialist.
9)Protect the lips with a lip salve or petroleum jelly (e.g.Vaseline).
10)Consider a humidifier for the bedroom.