Saliva is a critical component of oral health and has both protective and digestive functions. While overt signs and symptoms of oral dryness are relatively straight forward, there are also many covert signs, symptoms and risk factors for dry mouth. Dry mouth is a side effect of numerous over-the-counter and prescription medications, can be a symptom or sign of a systemic disorder or disease, a response to the physical climate, a manifestation of an emotional response, the result of a lifestyle choice or behavior, an indication of an airway obstruction or breathing disorder, or the result of damage to the salivary glands during radiation treatment to the head and neck area. Dry mouth issues are a direct and indirect result of numerous other factors. While elderly patients are at greater risk for developing a dry mouth condition, the problem is not limited to any specific age group. When evaluating a patient’s total oral health, it is important to consider the whole patient, their lifestyle and values.
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