Dr Ho Kok Sen from Specialist Dental Group was recently interviewed on 938LIVE radio on the Body & Soul show about a dry mouth condition known as Xerostomia and is currently available on Youtube. You may listen to it at http://bit.ly/9bBKbd. Read on to find out more about Xerostomia.
What is Xerostomia?
Xerostomia is the medical term for dry mouth. It is also known as salivary gland hypofunction. Dry mouth as the name refers to a subjective feeling of oral dryness due to a lack of saliva. It is not a diagnosis but a symptom. For this symptom to appear, the person’s unstimulated and stimulated salivary flow rate must be depressed to a certain level.
How does Xerostomia impact dental care?
Xerostomia is not a normal condition. Other bodily fluids like blood, urine and even tears have been widely used as indicators of health and disease. Saliva, however, has been largely ignored. Saliva protects our teeth and oral tissues. It also aids in digestion, taste and speech and is also a sensitive indicator of serious systemic conditions and diseases. Having a dry mouth is not normal and the general public needs to recognize this condition and bring it to the attention of their doctors and dentists.
Patients with dry mouths who do not seek preventive dental care in the early stages will usually present with severe dental caries (decay). This may be accompanied by mucositis or general inflammation of the oral tissues. Saliva with its immunoglobulins and other protective enzymes helps with food clearance thus preventing tooth decay. It also lines and protects the oral mucosa thus preventing recurrent oral infections.
How do you know that your Xerostomia is getting worse?
Our salivary glands are like factories. They need raw materials, machines and electricity to function and produce the end-products. If there is any disruption in this production line, the end-products get affected. Applying this to our salivary glands, we know that if there is any interference in the supply of metabolites including water, damage to the glands or failure in neural transmission can result in a reduction in the synthesis of saliva.
Xerostomia may present early with little or mild symptoms. Symptoms worsen when there is increased difficulty in speech and eating, This may be coupled with halitosis or bad breath. To determine if xerostomia is getting worse, we can test the salivary gland function. This can be done by collecting saliva and determining the amount produced in a five minute period. Other objective evidence of salivary gland involvement is tested through ultrasound examinations and/ or a parotid sialography.
Studies have shown that 1 in 4 adults complained of dry mouth and its associated symptoms. This coupled with the fact that about 40% of the elderly complained of dry mouth goes on to show that it is quite a common condition.
What can you do prevent and treat Xerostomia?
Treatment involves finding any correctable causes and fixing those if possible. In many cases it is not possible to correct the xerostomia itself, and treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms and preventing cavities.
Tips for patients with Xerostomia
- avoid the use of decongestants and antihistamines,
- pay careful attention to oral hygiene.
- Sipping non-carbonated sugarless fluids frequently, chewing xylitol-containing gum, and using a carboxymethyl cellulose saliva substitute as a mouthwash may help.
- The use of an enzymatic product such as Biotene toothpaste, mouthwash, and dry mouth moisturizing liquid has been proven to reduce the rate of recurrence of dental plaque resulting from dry mouth.
- Ensure that you see your dentist regularly for check-ups to maintain your oral health
What is Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells in our body system attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva. The exocrine glands concerned are the tear or lacrimal glands and the salivary glands, It is named after Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren (1899–1986) who first described it.
The hallmark symptoms of the disorder are dry mouth and dry eyes. In addition, Sjögren’s syndrome may cause skin, nose, and vaginal dryness and may affect other organs of the body, including the kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and brain.
For more information about Sjogren’s Syndrome, visit the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation. You can also join the Sjogren’s Syndrome Club on Facebook.
Public Seminar on Xerostomia and Launch of Sjogren’s Syndrome Club in Singapore
If you have xerostomia / Sjogren’s Syndrome or know of someone who has xerostomia/Sjogren’s Syndrome, Dr Ho will be speaking on “Managing Dry Mouth in Sjogren’s Syndrome”
Date: Saturday, April 24, 2010
Venue: Marina Mandarin Hotel (Taurus Ballroom)
Time: 2pm to 4pm.
Fee: Registration fee is $12 (Goodie bag worth $70 will be provided). Payment by cheque or credit card only.
See below for more details or contact: Shawn Chong at (65) 6232 8335 / 9227 1771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline for registration is April 22, 2010.