Introduction

When Pat Hollister, age 62, awoke at 6 a.m. with an urge to clear her throat, she never expected to find her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. “How bizarre” she thought as she quickly tumbled out of bed while frantically searching for her slippers.

Granted, Pat was mouth breathing due to a nasty sinus infection but this was something altogether different and uncomfortable.

After her usual cup of morning decaffeinated coffee, Pat decided to telephone her daughter, Lori, who is an experienced dental hygienist. “Lori,” said Pat in a shrill voice, the tone she only used when she was alarmed about something, “I’m not a happy camper… I awoke this morning to find my mouth feeling like it was stuffed with cotton balls and it took me several swishes of water until it felt right again.” Lori was wide-awake and cleaning up after her two-year-old son, William, who had just finished making his usual breakfast mess in the high chair. “Mom,” said Lori, “what medications are you taking?” Pat thought for a minute and then said “Hmm… Let me think.”

“I’m taking an antidepressant for my menopausal mood swings, a prescription-strength decongestant for my sinus drainage, and my usual prescription strength antihistamine.”

“Ok, Mom,” Lori replied in her usual cheery, consoling voice, “I’ve already figured out what is causing your dry mouth.” “It’s the combination of medications that are the culprit here,” Lori concluded. “All three of the medications you mentioned cause xerostomia as a side-effect.” “What’s xerostomia?” said Pat. “Oh, it’s the professional jargon we use in dentistry that means ‘dry mouth’,” said Lori, “and it can become a chronic problem with serious side effects if not discovered early and managed correctly.“