Watching for the signs of dry mouth 口乾舌燥有異味 小心口乾症

Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - Page 11

If you often feel that your sense of taste has changed, your mouth is dry and there is a peculiar taste in your mouth, be wary about the possibility that you have dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia). Ko Hui-hsin, an attending physician in the dentistry department at National Taiwan University Hospital’s Hsinchu Branch, says that middle-aged women over the age of 50 make up the majority of people suffering from dry mouth. The main symptoms include dryness in the mouth, dry eyes, dry genitalia and aching joints. The causes of dry mouth are complex and it is best to get tested at a hospital instead of ignoring the condition, she says.

Ko says that saliva fights bacteria and helps keep the teeth and mouth clean. When salivation is reduced, however, the oral mucosa can get irritated and food builds up on the teeth, which allows bacteria to breed, and causes bad breath (halitosis), cavities, bleeding gums and periodontal disease. In more serious cases, it can cause difficulties chewing and swallowing, leading to malnutrition and affecting one’s overall health, Ko says, adding that dry mouth can also serve as a signal for latent diseases.

Dry mouth can be caused by salivary gland stones, she says, adding that when salivary stones form, the gland’s ability to secrete is impeded, which in turn causes dryness in the mouth, as well as pain and swelling under the tongue and in the cheeks. People with iron-deficiency anemia have relatively paler and shinier, smoother tongues, accompanied by symptoms such as burning, stabbing pains and dryness in the mouth, while people with pernicious anemia in its early stages experience numbness in the tongue, depapillation of the tongue and dryness in the mouth.

Diabetics typically suffer from frequent urination, dry mouth and abnormal hunger. If you have a history of diabetes in your family or are overweight, it must be taken seriously, Ko says. Approximately 30 percent of seniors have various degrees of dry mouth due to a decrease in the secretion of saliva caused by atrophy in the salivary glands.

Ko says that symptoms can be improved in most cases of dry mouth by eliminating the cause, regardless of whether the condition is due to physiological disorders or systematic diseases. It is impossible to completely cure cases of dry mouth brought on by age, she says, recommending that one place more importance on keeping the mouth clean and using fluoride toothpaste. Although drinking more water can help lessen the discomfort associated with dry mouth, seniors, and people with bad livers and hearts, should be careful and avoid drinking excessive amounts of water, which can increase the burden put on internal organs.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)