Establishing Accurate Nomenclature

The terms dry mouth syndrome, hyposalivation, xerostomia and dry mouth are used interchangeably in the literature, a situation that creates confusion. Hyposalivation by definition is either decreased salivary flow or insufficient saliva. Hyposalivation can be observed and is measurable, but without a baseline measurement for comparison, it is impossible to determine the magnitude of change over time. Xerostomia is a subjective perception of insufficient mouth moisture. Most who report having xerostomia have insufficient oral moisture, but changes in saliva composition can also lead to the feeling of a dry mouth even if salivary flow appears adequate. Dry mouth syndrome includes those with hyposalivation, as well as persons with adequate flow but dry mouth complaints.2,9

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