CAUSES OF DRY MOUTH
Mouth conditions range from very minor problems caused by over use
of the voice or nervous tension, to total shut down of the saliva
glands. Saliva has many functions. It lubricates the ingested foods
and protects mucous membranes from irritation and toxic substances.
The flow of saliva aids in removing materials from the mouth in
a cleaning action. It maintains a neutral pH. thereby limiting the
acid producing effect of the breakdown of sugars on the teeth and
development of tooth decay. Saliva also has antibacterial and coagulation
Salivary gland dysfunction (Dry Mouth) can be caused by local glandular effects or systemic disease. In terms of local glandular effects, two Dry Mouth conditions may arise: hyposalivation (moderate) or xerostomia (severe). The result is difficulty in chewing, swallowing and digesting food. The most prevalent forms of xerostomia are found in cancer patients taking radiation treatments. Especially those with cancer in the neck and head area.
Systemically, Sjorgren's Syndrome is the most prevalent cause of xerostomia. It is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body's exocrine secretions - the eyes, nose, mouth and vagina - dry up. Other systemic diseases such as sarcoidosis, cystic fibrosis, hormonal dysfunction (thyrotoxicosis and diabetes), seleroderma, hypertension, obesity, hyperlipidemia alcoholic cirrhosis, malnutrition and lichen planus are all associated with xerostomia. Additionally, it is estimated that 25% of the elderly and 10% of AIDS patients suffer from xerostomia.