- Xerostomia or dry mouth occurs commonly, especially in those with Sjögren disease or who are receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.
- Reduced salivary flow can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking; it can also increase the chance of developing dental decay, demineralization of teeth, tooth sensitivity, and/or oral infections.
- Severity of dry mouth symptoms may range from mild oral discomfort to significant oral disease that can compromise the patient’s health, dietary intake, and quality of life.
- Causes of dry mouth can include toxicity from chemotherapy, head and neck radiotherapy, adverse effects of medications, autoimmune disease, or other conditions (e.g., uncontrolled diabetes, infections, hormonal changes).
- The goals of treating xerostomia include identifying the possible cause(s), relieving discomfort, and preventing complications (e.g., dental caries and periodontal infections).
- Xerostomia may be alleviated by use of saliva substitutes and other palliative measures; lifestyle tips (e.g., chewing sugar-free gum) and other dental/oral health specific recommendations (e.g., brushing teeth gently at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste) may help provide relief from or prevent adverse sequelae of dry mouth.