Xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth, can cause many issues related to the oral cavity. These issues can include difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking or wearing dentures. Patients may experience burning or tingling sensation, sores in the oral cavity or cracked lips. Beyond these discomforts, dry mouth can be a leading factor in dental caries, bacteria and plaque build-up, halitosis, gingival inflammation and periodontal disease – to name a few.
The diagnosis of xerostomia starts with your dentist asking you a series of questions. This would include questions such as “Are there any foods you have difficulty swallowing” or “do you have a dry tickling sensation in your throat?” Patients who appear to struggle from dry mouth will partake in a salivary flow rate test. This test is used to determine the severity of the patients’ xerostomia. The first test is conducted with no stimulant. The patient is asked to sit up straight and let the saliva accumulate in their mouth without swallowing. They then spit into a receptacle at one minute variables for a collective time of at least five minutes. A collection of 0.1 mL/min of saliva indicates a low salivary flow. The second test is conducted with a stimulant such as a piece of flavorless chewing gum. If there is little difference in saliva flow with the stimulant and the patient still does not produce 0.1 mL/min of saliva it indicates salivary hypofunction. This is one of the methods for testing for xerostomia although others are commonly used.
Dry mouth is an issue affecting many Americans. If you have questions about xerostomia or think you might suffer from the disorder please call our office at (651) 454-9028. Also, stay tuned for a follow up blog detailing the management of xerostomia!