Xerostomia, the official term for dry mouth, occurs when there is a shortage of saliva. This causes the lips to dry and crack and the inside of the mouth to feel dry and sticky. Besides being unpleasant, it also can be difficult to speak and eat. Saliva is necessary to lubricate the mouth, protect the teeth and prevent infection. Artificial saliva sprays can be used to replenish the amount of saliva and treat dry mouth.
Symptoms and Causes
Symptoms of dry mouth include a general dry feeling in the mouth, problems swallowing and chewing, a dry tongue, open sores in the mouth, dryness in the throat and cracked lips. Saliva contains enzymes and antibodies that help prevent tooth decay. It also is a natural way for the body to flush out bacteria and debris that can gather between teeth, eventually leading to decay. Saliva also makes it easier to swallow, helps in the digestive process and reduces chances of infection.
Causes of dry mouth include certain diseases and medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, Sjogren's syndrome and anxiety, the use of antidepressants, antihistamines and muscle-relaxants, among other drugs, and an injury to the neck or head that results in nerve damage.
Saliva sprays often are recommended to treat dry mouth. They can be referred to as saliva substitutes or artificial saliva. They lubricate the mouth when dry mouth is particularly unpleasant, chronic or severe. Saliva sprays are available over the counter but can be obtained from a dentist. Generally, saliva sprays are not considered a cure, but rather therapy because they reproduce the effect of natural saliva but do not help to produce it. Artificial saliva products also come in the form of lozenges or gels. Some brand-name saliva sprays include Optimoist from Colgate, MouthKote from Parnell and Moi-Stir from Kingswood Labs.