Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that affects the glands that make saliva and tears, causing such symptoms as dry eyes, dry mouth, and dry throat. Dryness in the mouth and throat due to poor saliva production leads to soreness, irritation, changes in the sense of taste, difficulty in speaking and swallowing, and an overall sensation of stickiness.
Here are some tips to help keep your mouth and throat moisturized throughout the day.
Identify the problem
It is important to identify signs of dry mouth and dry throat as early as possible. Make a note of how often you experience these symptoms, and whether any recent medications or foods were followed by increased dryness. Discuss these with your dentist or physician.
Also be on the lookout for signs of dental decay, and consult a dentist at the earliest opportunity.
Confirm low saliva production
Before undergoing treatment for mouth and throat dryness, it is important to confirm that the salivary glands are not functioning as they should. Your doctor or dentist may recommend certain tests, such as a physical examination of the salivary glands and the rate at which saliva flows into your mouth. A lip biopsy to examine minor salivary glands may also be recommended.
Maintain good oral hygiene
Saliva not only acts as a moisturizer in your mouth, but also helps to prevent bacterial growth and to protect the teeth from decay. Make sure to brush after every meal with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and to floss your teeth daily. Your dentist may recommend chewing on sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
Ensure you drink enough fluids throughout the day. A highly recommended source of hydration is water, and fruit and vegetable juices, or sport drinks are also good. Consider drinking water with each meal to aid in chewing and swallowing.
Avoid foods that promote dryness
Carbonated drinks like sodas, and sticky foods such as cookies, chips, and candy can worsen the symptoms of dry mouth and throat. Caffeine and alcohol consumption can also increase dryness. Chewing or smoking tobacco should also be strictly avoided.
Maintain proper relative humidity in your room
Often, people wake up feeling very dry about the throat and mouth if the relative humidity in their room is low. Consider using a humidifier to maintain proper relative humidity levels. However, take care so as not to set the humidifier too high, as this can promote the growth of allergens.
Try not to sleep with your mouth open
Breathing through an open mouth while asleep can quickly dry the saliva there, so try to consciously sleep with your mouth closed and breath through your nose. An open mouth also promotes snoring or a more serious condition called sleep apnea, in which the airways become blocked repeatedly during sleep, obstructing airflow to the lungs. If you notice symptoms of sleep apnea, consult your doctor immediately.
Use saliva substitutes
Saliva substitutes such as moisturizers, lozenges, mouth rinses, and gels that contain xylitol, carboxymethylcellulose, or hydroxyethylcellulose are available without prescription and can help keep the mouth and throat moist.
But saliva substitutes do not contain the digestive and antibacterial enzymes, proteins, and important minerals that constitute natural saliva, and should only be used for temporary relief. You may also need to try a few saliva substitutes before finding one that suits you best.
Use salivary stimulants
Unlike saliva substitutes, salivary stimulants promote the secretion of natural saliva by the salivary glands and are only available with a prescription. Salivary stimulants such as Salagen (pilocarpine) and Evoxac (cevimeline hydrochloride) are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat dry mouth in Sjogren’s syndrome patients.
Salivary stimulants should be used under medical supervision, as they can cause side effects that include nausea, vomiting, sweating, low blood pressure, and bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate).
Massage the salivary glands
Sometimes, massaging the parotid salivary glands can help relieve the pain due to salivary ducts blocked by hardened saliva, also known as a mucous plug. Gently massage the back area of your cheek from the mid-ear down to the jaw with your index and middle fingers to dislodge any mucous plugs and help relieve pain.
Last updated: Oct. 3, 2019
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