Saliva is produced by our salivary glands, and helps us with chewing, tasting, swallowing and talking. In addition, saliva starts the digestion process by breaking down food in the mouth, and prevents mouth infections by cleaning the teeth and gums. When there is a reduced amount of saliva in the mouth (a condition known as
dry mouth or
xerostomia), these actions become difficult to achieve. If severe, dry mouth may even affect a person’s nutritional status.
Causes of Dry mouth
The severity of dry mouth can range from mild to severe, and possible causes include:
What you need to look out for
Depending on the cause and other associated conditions, signs and symptoms can include:
How it can be treated
Dry mouth can be managed based on its cause. For instance, treatment of a mouth infection will improve dry mouth that is caused by the infection. Your doctor or nurse may recommend moisturizing mouth products that you can use, for instance artificial saliva rinses, sprays or gels. Discuss with your doctor or nurse if it is advisable for you to visit the dentist, particularly if you are undergoing anticancer treatment. Dental procedures should be done preferably 2-3 weeks prior to starting anticancer treatments.
What you can do
Below are some tips you may find helpful, in managing dry mouth.
Maintaining oral hygiene
Maintaining good hydration and nutrition
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse as soon as you notice any of the following, which can indicate complications from dry mouth:
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call Cancer Helpline at +65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers.
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