Dry mouth is a common and disabling problem. After exclusion of treatable causes, treatment is symptomatic to prevent the consequences of salivary hypofunction, such as tooth decay and infection of the oral mucosa.
- The subjective complaint of xerostomia needs to be differentiated from true salivary hypofunction.
- Salivary hypofunction can significantly reduce quality of life through its adverse effects on taste, mastication, swallowing, cleansing of the mouth, killing of microbes and speech.
- Salivary hypofunction is a substantive risk factor for dental caries, oral mucosal disease and infection, particularly oral candidiasis.
- Patients should be investigated for contributory and underlying causes, which include drugs and rheumatological diseases.
- Patients with salivary hypofunction can be treated with artificial saliva, moisturising gels, sugar-free lozenges or gums and muscarinic drugs (cevimeline, pilocarpine).
- Attention to maintaining and improving oral health is important, and treatment of consequent dental caries is essential.