Dryness of the mouth is a common problem especially
amongst the elderly. However this problem or symptom is also seen
in many other cases and is not as rare as we think. Normally a
healthy individual produces about 3 pints of saliva. When this
saliva production decreases the person suffers from hyposalivation.
If this condition continues it finally leads to dry mouth or Xerostomia.
WHY IS SALIVA IMPORTANT?
Saliva has many important functions. Firstly it
allows us to talk freely by providing lubrication. It also prevents
the teeth from decaying, plaque from being formed and washes away
the food stuck on your teeth. Saliva has minerals, which helps repair
early tooth decay and prevents bacterial growth leading to mouth
infections. What you don't know is that your saliva also enhances
your ability to taste food and makes it easier to swallow. There
are certain enzymes present in the saliva, which help breakdown
the food particles and start the process of digestion. It also helps
neutralize acids in your mouth.
WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT CAUSE OR INFLUENCE XEROSTOMIA?
There are a number of factors that cause or influence
Xerostomia. Here are few of the most common ones:
1. AGE - as we age all our secretions start to
decrease. This also includes the production and secretion of saliva.
Also as we age there are a lot of other factors, which can lead
to dry mouth like dental problems and medication.
Older people also suffer from decreased saliva production because
they tend to eat soft and liquefied food, which requires less chewing.
This tends to reduce the flow of saliva.
2. MEDICATION - certain medicines given to treat
various conditions in the allopathic system of medicine produce
xerostomia as a side-effect. The common ones responsible for this
are those used to treat depression, anxiety, anti-histamines, high
blood pressure medicines, muscle relaxants and painkillers, anti-diarrhoeals,
drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease and urinary incontinence.
In short a lot of drugs have this as a side-effect. Chemotherapy
drugs can change the composition and quantity of saliva.
3. DISEASES AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
- there are
certain diseases and medical conditions, which tend to produce dry
mouth as a symptom. Auto-immune conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis,
Sjogren's syndrome etc… are known to suffer from dry mouth.
Diabetics suffer from dryness of the mouth and have a constant desire
to drink water. Anaemia, stress, anxiety, depression can give rise
to this problem. Other chronic conditions like Parkinson's disease,
Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus etc…
are also said to suffer from Xerostomia.
4. REMOVAL OF THE SALIVARY
GLANDS - the salivary
glands are the ones responsible for producing saliva hence if they
are removed the flow will naturally decrease. Tumors of the glands
are one such condition in which the removal may be necessary.
5. ANOREXIA OR BULIMIA NERVOSA
- saliva is produced
when food is consumed most of the time but it is also secreted without
eating. This saliva, which is produced without eating, tends to
decrease in conditions like Anorexia and Bulimia. The mental and
emotional problems along with these disorders can also contribute
to the dryness of the mouth.
6. MENOPAUSE - women in the menopausal age occasionally
suffer from bleeding of the gums that become dry and shiny. Mouth
dryness along with a burning sensation are common complaints in
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF XEROSTOMIA?
The common signs and symptoms are:
1. Difficulty in talking is one of the first symptoms a person with
dry mouth experiences.
2. Bad breathe or halitosis becomes a problem with dry mouth.
3. Constant desire to drink water or some liquid.
4. There may also be dryness of the lips, corners of the mouth maybe
5. The saliva may appear thick, stringy and difficult to expectorate.
6. There maybe a burning or tingling sensation of the tongue.
7. The sense of taste may get altered.
8. Difficulty in eating dry or dehydrated foods.
9. Dental problems and increased production of plaque, tooth decay
and gum disease.
10. Older people find it difficult to wear dentures as the dentures
need saliva for adhesion or to hold them in place.
SELF-CARE TIPS FOR PEOPLE WITH DRY MOUTH
There are a number of things you can do to help
relieve the symptoms of dry mouth. Here are a few handy tips.
1. Keep sipping water throughout the day and night.
Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Stick to drinking plain pure
water instead of aerated drinks.
2. Try chewing on sugarless chewing gum or sweets.
This helps stimulate the production of saliva and relieve the dryness.
3. Use toothpastes, which have Fluorides in them.
This is important from the dental point of view to avoid decay of
4. Avoid eating tobacco or smoking.
5. Do not consume food high in sugar.
6. Keep a strict oral hygiene routine to avoid
bad breath and visit your dentist at regular intervals.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR XEROSTOMIA?
In Homoeopathy we treat the patients according
to the symptoms and signs. It is very important to take the case-history
in detail and determine the cause of dry mouth. Here are a few Homoeopathic
medicines which have been found effective where the symptoms are
NUX MOSCHATA - whenever there is intense
dryness of any mucous lining in the body Nux Moschata must always
be thought of. Here the patient will complaint of so much dryness
in the mouth that the tongue sticks to the roof of the oral cavity.
But even though there is dryness the patient has no desire for water.
Talking becomes very difficult. The saliva if any is thick like
All the symptoms are worse from emotions, change of season and cold
Nux Moschata 200, should be given according to
the intensity and severity of the case.
MERC COR - another very handy remedy in
these types of cases where the tongue is swollen, inflamed, white
and the taste gets altered. The saliva may be thick and tenacious
and expectorated with great difficulty. There is a constant burning
or scalding sensation in the mouth.
Merc cor 200, 5 pills 4 times a day should be
given in acute cases.
PLANTAGO -the sphere of action of this
drug is around the mouth, oral cavity and especially the gums and
teeth. Here the teeth are very sensitive and sore to touch. The
patient feels worse with touch and cold air and better by applying
pressure to the part and lying down. Peculiarly the toothache seems
to be better while eating. If the Xerostomia seems to be related
to some dental problem think of Plantago
Plantago 200, 5 pills in repeated doses can be
IGNATIA - has proven very effective in
treating patients with emotional problems where the symptoms are
present. Here the patient suffers from changes in mood. The person
feels like weeping for no apparent reason and keeps thinking negative
thoughts. They do not like to be consoled and wish to be alone.
Sometimes there may be profuse saliva, which is acidic in nature.
The mouth is inflamed and red. The patient will complain of a bitter
Ignatia should only be prescribed if the symptoms
are present and it seems to be the cause for the dry mouth problem.