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The Dry Mouth Epidemic – It’s More than Medications, Aging and Degenerative Diseases

Course Number: 595

Who Suffers from Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth can be episodic, chronic or a permanent condition. It can be a symptom of performance anxiety, a side effect of a short dose of antihistamines, or a response to a long-term treatment like hemodialysis. While transient episodes are uncomfortable, most cases of dry mouth are chronic, characterized by complex, multifactorial etiologies. Long-standing dry mouth conditions increase the risk for oral disease significantly by tipping the balance away from homeostasis.2 While some health care professionals do not consider dry mouth to be a major problem, numerous studies report significant quality of life issues.3,10,13-23 Both dentate nursing home residents and those with dentures experience high levels of low quality of life directly related to dry mouth issues, especially those with cognitive disorders.17,22,25,26

Due to complex etiologies, dry mouth can affect any age.14,20 While only a small percentage of patients initially self-report symptoms of dry mouth, studies have shown that dry mouth affects roughly 30% of the population,16-19 with the number nearly doubling for those over the age of 65. One study found 10% of subjects in their early thirties were affected by xerostomia.20 Numerous studies demonstrated that women have higher rates of dry mouth then men14,16,19-22 and those over the age of 50 years are more likely to experience xerostomia.2,4,14,16-19,21-23

Most people who suffer from dry mouth don’t report oral dryness until there is a perceptible reduction in salivary flow, despite having a clinical diagnosis of hyposalivation.13,18,21,23 Additionally, early stages of dry mouth syndrome may not be recognized during a visual inspection or identified when asking a patient if they have dry mouth issues.2,17,18,21,23,26