What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dr. David Ellsworth and his staff at Harbor Pointe Dental of Petoskey treat patients of all ages for a wide range of oral health problems. With some conditions, such as dry mouth (xerostomia), the team at Harbor Pointe Dental of Petoskey may need to look beyond the mouth to determine the root cause of the problem.

Dry mouth is characterized by an insufficient flow of saliva, which is necessary for oral and digestive health. Saliva helps neutralize acids that harm tooth enamel, kills oral bacteria, and aids in chewing and swallowing. Xerostomia can strike anyone at any age, but it often develops in older people because of their declining health.

Medical conditions that can impair the functioning of the salivary glands include cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Chemotherapy or radiation treatments can also cause dry mouth, as can previous nerve damage to the head or neck. There are also hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can dry out the mouth. Using tobacco or street drugs, especially methamphetamines, can additionally lead to xerostomia.

A qualified general dentist can treat the tooth decay and periodontal disease caused by dry mouth and make suggestions for stimulating saliva flow, but the patient may need to undergo medical treatment by a physician or alter his or her medication regimen to address the underlying cause.