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Xerostomia & Periodontal Disease

By Catherine Chase, eHow Contributor

Xerostomia and periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, are both conditions that affect the mouth. Xerostomia is a condition that may lead to periodontal disease, although periodontal disease has many other possible causes and contributing factors. With both xerostomia and periodontal disease, it's important to plan a course of action with your dentist so that the conditions do not lead to further, more serious complications. It's also essential to tell your dentist your complete medical history.

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1. Xerostomia Definition

Xerostomia is another name for dry mouth. Xerostomia is not a disease, but rather a symptom; there is always a condition that causes xerostomia. Xerostomia may be a temporary or a permanent situation. In severe cases, patients may find it difficult to speak and eat. Xerostomia patients may also be more susceptible to oral candida infections.

Periodontal Disease Definition


Periodontal disease is the more advanced stage of gingivitis, or gum disease. Gum disease occurs when there is plaque buildup in the mouth, which results in the gums becoming inflamed. Periodontal disease occurs when the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form pockets, which then become infected with bacteria. If this condition is not treated, it can lead to bone loss and eventual loss of the affected teeth.
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Periodontal disease has many possible causes, one of which is xerostomia. A chronic dry mouth deprives the teeth of necessary saliva. Saliva is needed to not only help you swallow and eat, but to help prevent tooth decay. Saliva protects the enamel on your teeth. An inadequate amount of saliva can lead to the wearing away of the gums and eventual tooth decay.

Xerostomia Causes

Xerostomia can be caused by different diseases and infections, such as diabetes, anemia, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, mumps, cystic fibrosis and Sjogren's syndrome. Other possible causes include dehydration, radiation therapy and surgical removal of the salivary glands. Xerostomia can also be caused by hundreds of different drugs, including pain relievers, depression medications and allergy drugs.


It's important to treat xerostomia as soon as possible so that periodontal disease does not develop. However, if the cause of your xerostomia is the removal of the salivary glands, there is no possible treatment. If your xerostomia is caused by a medication, discuss with your doctor the possibility of replacing the drug. Other strategies you can try include sipping ice water frequently, chewing sugar-free gum to encourage saliva production, and sucking on a sugar-free lemon drop.
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Read more: Xerostomia & Periodontal Disease |


The onset of chronic bad breath is known as halitosis. You may develop halitosis as a result of xerostomia. One purpose of saliva is to wash away bacteria from the mouth. If your salivary glands malfunction and your mouth is frequently dry, bacteria remains on tissues in your mouth. This causes a persistent lingering breath odor.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is caused by excessive plaque that accumulates under the gum line. It causes your gums to swell and recede from your teeth. Your gums may appear red and inflamed, accompanied by pus. Periodontal disease can be caused by xerostomia. When your mouth is dry, there is no saliva to wash away plaque and protect your teeth. Accordingly, bacteria and plaque accrue underneath your gum line and cause the onset of infection.
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Xerostomia may cause cavities to develop in your mouth. Saliva washes away harmful bacteria and plaque from your teeth. If the saliva glands are not working properly and your mouth is continually dry, a large amount of plaque and debris remain on your teeth, causing tooth decay.

Eating Problems

Xerostomia can cause problems with chewing and swallowing. Certain crunchy foods, such as cereal or crackers, may be especially difficult to eat. Other foods that may pose a problem are meat, spicy foods, and any foods that require thorough chewing. The lack of saliva creates difficulties in swallowing, since there is not enough moisture to help you wash food down your throat. You may notice that soft foods, such as mashed potatoes or soup, are easier to swallow.

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