Every day a healthy adult person produces between one and two litres of saliva, which equates to one millilitre per minute. Saliva facilitates speech, chewing, swallowing and helps to maintain the mouth to be hydrated, clean and balanced. The main symptom that someone who suffers from xerostomia has is a decreased amount of saliva equalling less than half of the normal amount (less than 0.5ml/minute) consistently. We all suffer from dry mouth at some point in time (due to nervousness, stress, consuming alcohol or certain illnesses…) but if we notice a lack of saliva daily and it causes problems when speaking, chewing, tasting foods or swallowing, it is very possible that we suffer from xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome.
Along with reduced saliva, we can find the following symptoms:
- Continuous sensation of a dry, pasty, sticky mouth.
- Need to drink water to hydrate the mouth and an increase in thirst.
- Thick and viscous saliva (with a foam-like appearance).
- Burning mouth.
- A dry, cracked and rough tongue.
- Dry lips and cracking at the corners of the mouth.
- Difficulty speaking, chewing or swallowing.
- Bad breath.
- Changes to taste (dysgeusia). For example, in some foods like meat people perceive there to be a metallic flavour.
- Appearance of dental problems even though they have good oral hygiene. Cavities are common in the root of the tooth, which are very difficult to detect early and progress rapidly, putting the tooth in serious danger.
- Sores and cuts in the mouth.
- More prone to mouth infections (for example, thrush, periodontal infections and gingivitis)
- Difficulty using prosthetic teeth (for example, dentures)
In addition to these symptoms that the patient describes, when a specialist completes a physical exam they can find changes in the oral cavity:
- Pale and dry lining of the mouth.
- Cracks on the tongue.
- Whitened, dull or infected gums.
- Dry palate.
- Mouth sores or irritations.