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By: Thomas S. Jennings, DDS

One condition commonly found in our mature patients is xerostomia. Like many medical terms this one comes from Latin roots, in this case“xero” (the absence of moisture) and “stoma” (the mouth.) Xerostomia is a condition related to the salivary glands, which keep the mouth moist, thus preventing tooth decay and other health problems. When the salivary glands do not work properly, the amount of saliva in the mouth decreases, resulting in xerostomia—or, as it’s more commonly known, dry mouth.

What causes dry mouth?

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause…there are more than 400 medications that can contribute to xerostomia. It can also be related to radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal alterations, and diseases such as diabetes, lupus, and Alzheimer’s. Other contributing factors include stress, anxiety, depression, nutritional deficiencies, and dysfunction of the immune system.

How important is saliva?

Saliva is vital to everyday processes such as tasting, swallowing, speaking, and digestion. Saliva is a natural defense for teeth. Without saliva, teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay and bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Human saliva is composed mostly of water but also includes key components that play a major role in keeping your mouth healthy by rinsing away food particles, neutralizing harmful acids, and providing enzymes that help digest food.

How can a dentist help?

After evaluation your dentist may consult with your physician in order to determine the extent to which systemic medical conditions and the medications are contributing to the problem. Occasionally, alteration in treatment regimes can be made to minimize dry mouth. In addition, your dentist may recommend using saliva substitutes and over-the-counter mouthwashes, gels, and sprays. To ease discomfort, he also may recommend brushing and flossing twice a day, chewing sugarless gum, drinking plenty of water, and maintaining regular dental visits. Dietary alteration may be suggested, including the avoidance of alcohol, caffeine, smoking, citrus juices, dry foods, and overly salty foods.


For more information, or to learn more about how to keep your healthy smile please call Dr. Jennings at 719-590-7100.

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Monday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Tuesday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Wednesday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Thursday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Friday: 8:00am - 5:00pm

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Pinnacle Dentistry
Briargate Business Center
2430 Research Pkwy, Suite #200
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

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