Dry Mouth

Posted on 05/21/2017

Everybody gets dry mouth now and then. Sometimes temporary mouth dryness can be brought on by dehydration, stress, or a normal reduction in saliva flow at night. However, if your child's dry mouth persists long past the norm, they may have a chronic condition known as xerostomia.

What is Xerostomia?


Xerostomia is a condition that develops when salivary glands, which normally keep the mouth moist by secreting saliva, are not working properly.

A prolonged lack of saliva has significant implications. First, it causes bad breath or halitosis. Second, it can be harder to eat with a dry mouth. Tasting, chewing, and swallowing may also become difficult. As a result, your child's nutrition could be negatively impacted. And third, a dry mouth creates ideal conditions for tooth decay to grow. This is harmful to your child's dental health. Saliva plays a key role in keeping decay-causing oral bacteria in check and neutralizing the acids these bacteria produce. It is this acid that erodes tooth enamel and starts the decaying process.

Possible Causes

There are several possible causes for xerostomia, including:

  • Medications - Medications are responsible for a major amount of dry mouth cases. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there are more than 500 medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that cause dry mouth. The medications with the highest correlation to dry mouth are antihistamines (for allergies), diuretics (which drain excess fluid), and antidepressants. Chemotherapy drugs can also cause dry mouth.

  • Radiation Therapy - Radiation of the head and neck can damage salivary glands—sometimes permanently, causing a dry mouth condition to develop. Radiation to treat cancer in other parts of the body, however, will not lead to dry mouth.

  • Disease - Some systemic (general body) diseases can also cause dry mouth. Sjögren's syndrome, for example, is an autoimmune disease characterized by the body attacking its own moisture-producing glands in the eyes and mouth. Other diseases known to produce dry mouth include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS.

  • Nerve Damage - Trauma to the head and neck can damage the nerves involved in the production of saliva, thus causing dry mouth as well.

Getting Relief

If your child suffers from dry mouth and she/he is taking any medication regularly, it's possible that a physician can suggest either a substitute or adjust the dosage of the medication to relieve dry mouth symptoms. If this is not possible, or has already been tried without success, here are some other ways to counteract dry mouth:

  • Sip Fluids Frequently - This is particularly helpful during meals. Make sure what your child drinks contains minimal sugar and isn't acidic, as these will both increase the risk of tooth decay. All sodas (including diet sodas) should be avoided, as they are acidic and cause harm to the tooth surface.

  • Chew Sugarless Gum - This will help stimulate saliva flow. Choose a type of gum that contains xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that can help protect against tooth decay.

  • Avoid Drying/Irritating Foods and Beverages - These include toast, crackers, very salty foods, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks.

  • Use a Humidifier - Running a cool-mist humidifier at night can be soothing to children suffering with dry mouth.

  • Use Saliva Stimulants/Substitutes - There are prescription and over-the-counter products that can either stimulate saliva or act as a substitute oral fluid. Our Sugar Land and Wharton pediatric dentists can give some recommendations during your child's next appointment.

  • Practice Good Oral Hygiene - Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste; this will remove bacterial plaque and add minerals to strengthen the teeth. Don't forget about flossing!

  • Maintain Regular Dental Exams/Cleanings - If your child suffers from dry mouth, it's especially important that he or she maintains regularly scheduled visits with your local Sugar Land and Wharton, TX pediatric dentistry. Our dentists will do their best to help relieve any dry-mouth symptoms your child is experiencing.


Contact Your Local Pediatric Dentistry

Xerostomia can be treated. Contact our Sugar Land and Wharton, TX pediatric dentistry today to learn how to alleviate dry mouth symptoms and to schedule your child's next visit with one of our skilled pediatric dentists!