The clinical name for dry mouth is Xerostomia (pronounced ZEER-oh-STOH-mee-ah). Sicca Syndrome may, or may not, be related to Sjogren's Disease (an autoimmune disorder). It is often related to Fibromyalgia Syndrome.
Sjogren's (pronounced SHOW-grens) also often exhibits other dryness issues, such as with the eyes, nose, intestines (causing constipation) and vagina (causing irritation). It is also related to ear fullness, hearing loss and ear noise. I mention Sjogren's because Sicca Syndrome usually is found in combination with other autoimmune disorders, with Sjogren's being the most common. However, you can have dry mouth for other reasons as well.
The cause of Xerostomia is the underproduction of saliva from the salivary glands. This condition is most often a 'total body' condition and not a 'mouth' condition, meaning there is something else going on in your body (or mind) or you are putting something in your mouth that doesn't work for you.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth Syndrome
Symptoms may include dry mouth and tongue, a sensation that your tongue or other parts of the mouth are burning, mouth sores, metallic taste, reduced ability to taste certain foods, sensitivity to certain foods, trouble swallowing, areas of soreness when using dentures or partials, significant increase in cavities or dental carries (tiny dips in teeth at the gum line) and difficulty in talking (as if your tongue gets caught on the inside of your cheek). You may also notice your tongue looks a different color than it used to.
The natural job of saliva is to begin digestion, protect teeth from decay and the mouth from infection by washing away sugars and food particles, and to facilitate chewing and swallowing. It is hard to chew and swallow when there is not enough moisture. Imagine eating a mouthful of dry crackers with nothing to wash it down. This is the constant effect of salivary glands not functioning properly.
Possible Causes of Dry Mouth Syndrome
The most common cause is prescription and over-the-counter drugs. There are over 1800 drugs that can cause dry mouth and eyes. The most common types of drugs leading to this condition are high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, allergy medications, weight loss and pain prescriptions and OTC drugs. There are other products that cause dry mouth as well.
Eating or drinking foods that are too hot or too cold.
Drinking beverages containing caffeine, which is acidic and drying.
Radiation Therapy & Chemotherapy
High Blood Pressure
Nerve damage to head and/or neck that regulates saliva output.
Depression, anxiety and nervousness causing the salivary glands to produce less saliva.
Chewing less than you used to. If for any reason you are not chewing 'tough' foods anymore (like celery, meat, raw carrots, nuts) then the salivary glands decrease in size, producing less lubrication. As you age, you may tend to lean towards eating foods that are gentler on your teeth. This can cause less saliva production, although not so much that it should be a noticeable problem.
Certain autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren's (see the full list of symptoms below), Hodgkin's, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's Disease can be the cause of dry mouth and eyes (and other dry areas of the body). Fibromyalgia is also a cause of dry mouth, eyes and other dryness problems (nose, breathing airways, intestines, and vagina).
Sjogren's Syndrome often appears at the same time as menopause and is characterized by dry mouth, dry eyes and, at times, Burning Mouth Syndrome.
Dry mouth often causes deterioration of the teeth and trouble swallowing. There may also be inflammation of the joints, kidneys, thyroid, nerves or other areas of the body. Women may experience severe fatigue and sleep disruption.
Sjogren's patients blood tests may reveal antibodies that are directed against normal cellular substances (the body attacks its own cells). For this reason, Sjogren's Syndrome is considered an autoimmune disorder.
FS and Sjogren's often have many of the same symptoms. There are no blood tests for Fibromyalgia, while, as already stated, there are for Sjogren's.
Symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome
Dry skin and dry, irritated nose membranes
Yeast infection (Candida) in the mouth or on the tongue
Hoarseness while speaking or a dry, nagging cough
Vaginal dryness causing painful intercourse or vaginal pain in general
Dulled hearing and ear fullness. This happens when the immune system attacks the ears (AIED)
Damage or inflammation to lungs (causes breathlessness), kidney and liver.
Raynaud's phenomenon, which is increased sensitivity to cold causing pale fingers
Inflammation of the muscles in the shoulder, neck and/or pelvic areas
Joint pain and stiffness, often in the hands and feet
Nerve and muscle pain and ache, especially upon use
Constipation caused by internal dryness
If you have many of these symptoms and fear you may have an auto-immune disorder it is better to know than to worry. See your doctor. There are tests that can be run to make sure there is not an underlying condition for your dryness.
Fibromyalgia may also cause all of these very same symptoms, with the exception of inflammation.
Spiritual/Psychological Causes for Dry Mouth Syndrome: Feeling as if some area of your life has dried up.
Check your diet to make sure you are not ingesting too many oxalates or salicylates. These are plant toxins that occur naturally in foods and are in some products. A side effect of too many oxalates or salicylates is dry mouth and tongue. When you subscribe to The Captains Lady you will gain instant access to TCL's Wellness Handout, The Oxalates & Salicylates Foods & Substances Lists.
When Being Highly Sensitive Hurts the Highly Sensitive Person
Natural remedies and alternative therapies are included in this e-book for the following symptoms and syndromes: