March 18, 2010

Causes & Treatment Of Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) And Acid Reflux

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Acid reflux and dry mouth are often interrelated to each other. Dry mouth or xerostomia tends to hinder the process of food being adequately wet with the saliva that is alkaline and neutralizes any stomach acid reflux that could occur from the stomach. The alkaline nature of saliva helps counteract acid in the stomach earlier in the esophagus and is an important part of the process of digestion. Preventing dry mouth will help you avoid acid reflux from occurring.

Causes: There are numerous things that could cause dry mouth including aging, cancer therapy, medications, nerve damage, other health conditions, and smoking.

Older people tend to get dry mouth not due to their age but because of the medications that they could be taking. They are also more likely to have other health conditions that could lead to dry mouth.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy could feel a change in the amount of saliva produced and the nature of it. Radiation, particularly for your neck and head, could injure your salivary glands, leading to a marked reduction in the saliva produced in your mouth.

  • Chewing is a natural thing that the mouth does, and when not utilized enough, the saliva glands tend to shrivel up. If you reduce the amount that you chew, your saliva glands will shrink in size and therefore produce less saliva, leading to dry mouth.
  • Depression or anxiety tends to lower the amount of saliva produced in your mouth.
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco could be one of the reasons for decreased saliva production and could be one of the factors that cause a dry mouth. So if you are suffering from dry mouth, quitting smoking can decrease or eradicate a dry mouth.
  • Consuming alcohol and products that contain caffeine like tea, coffee and soft drinks can also lead to a dry mouth due to dehydration.
  • Another cause of dry mouth could be breathing through the mouth for long periods of time it usually occurs while sleeping.
  • Many medicines could cause a dry mouth. Antidiarrheals, antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, drugs for urinary incontinence, high blood pressure medication, muscle relaxants, and Parkinson’s disease medication could cause dry mouth.
  • Any nerve injury to your head or neck could result in xerostomia.
  • If you are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety disorders, diabetes, depression, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, or Sjogren’s syndrome, you could have a dry mouth.

Symptoms: The common symptoms of dry mouth are as follows:

  • Bad breath or halitosis
  • Burning or tingling sensation of the tongue
  • Chapped lips
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dry, irritable, scratchy tongue
  • Dry nasal passages
  • Hoarseness of the throat, dry
  • Sticky feeling in the mouth
  • Inability to chew, taste or swallow food properly
  • Increased gum disease, plaque buildup and tooth decay
  • Painful sores of the mouth and tongue
  • Saliva that tends to get thick or stringy
  • Increased thirst

Treatment: Here are a few simple things you can do to get rid of a dry mouth as well as heartburn-related dry mouth.

  • Breathing through your Nose: This is a very effective treatment if you are suffering from dry mouth, but difficult to implement, if you are used to breathing through your mouth.
  • Chewing Gum: Chewing gum is an effective way to prevent an acid reflux as it tends to stimulate the production of saliva in your mouth. This gets rid of a dry mouth, which, in turn, prevents acid reflux. The downside of chewing gum is that air gets swallowed while you are chewing and that could cause belching and gas thereby, intensifying the symptoms of acid reflux. If you dislike chewing gum, you can suck on a hard candy to help with saliva being produced. While choosing a candy, avoid ones that are acidic and sour as they could tend to irritate the acids present in the stomach.
  • Dental Hygiene: Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing with your teeth twice a day and flossing your teeth after eating should help you get rid of dry mouth symptoms.
  • Drink Water: Drinking sufficient water is one way of making sure that your mouth does not get dry; this also decreases acid reflux as it helps in the production of saliva. Drinking water during your meals not only aids in producing saliva but it also helps to dilute the stomach acid while washing the food down. As the food is moistened and gets soft, it is easier for the stomach to digest it. If you dislike drinking water while eating your meals, having a glass after you finish your meal also helps reduce the risk of heartburn dry mouth.
  • Dry Air: If you live in an area that has dry climate, it could tend to aggravate dry mouth. Using a humidifier in your home should help as it moistens the air, thus keeping your mouth and nasal passage wet.
  • Home Remedies: Certain people may opt for mustard, peppermint, peppermint oil, or a spoon of vinegar to get rid of acid reflux. However, using these over a sustained period of time could harm you. Anything that stimulates the production of saliva will aid in stopping acid reflux, which is it is best to drink water.