Xerostomia is the medical term for a dry mouth, and is most commonly due to hyposalivation.
Xerostomia is the most frequently observed salivary abnormality in clinical practice 1.
- dryness of the mouth
- uncomfortable swallowing
- vocalisation difficulties: tongue may adhere to the palate impairing speech
- taste disturbances: ageusia and dysgeusia
- fetor oris
A chronic lack of saliva can result in several sequelae, with potentially serious morbidity:
Most people experience a dry mouth from time to time, whether related to 'nerves' or because they are mildly dehydrated.
- old age: reduced saliva production
- anticholinergic activity
agents affecting sympathetic system
- sympathomimetic agents: e.g. ephedrine
agents promoting fluid depletion
- radiotherapy: including radioiodine for thyroid disease
- graft-versus-host disease
- thirst due to volume depletion: commonest cause
- salivary gland pathology
- agenesis/hypoplasia of the salivary glands: rare 1
- psychosomatic: no objective evidence of salivary dysfunction
Treatment and prognosis
- treat underlying cause e.g. Sjögren syndrome
- artificial saliva
- optimal oral hygiene
History and etymology
Xerostomia is derived from the Classical Greek, ζηρος (xeros) meaning dry, and στομα (stoma) meaning mouth 2,3.
- 1. Scully C, Felix DH. Oral medicine -- update for the dental practitioner: dry mouth and disorders of salivation. (2005) British dental journal. 199 (7): 423-7. doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.4812740 - Pubmed
- 2. William Alexander Newman Dorland. Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. (2018) ISBN: 9781416023647
- 3. James Morwood, John Taylor. Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary. (2002) ISBN: 9780198605126