Many who use parenteral and enteral nutrition (HPEN) complain of xerostomia or dry mouth. Dry mouth seems to be an indirect result of (HPEN), and although dry mouth is not a very serious problem related to (HPEN), it can really diminish the quality of life especially with its consequences that may negatively affect both systemic and oral health.
Before talking about the useful strategies to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth, we need to know what saliva is and what its functions are.
Saliva is 99% water, but it has other important components including the enzymes that start digesting starch and fat before swallowing the food; opiorphin which is a natural painkiller and mucin proteins that help lubricate oral soft tissues such as the tongue and lips.
Saliva is produced by minor salivary glands found in the mouth, and its normal daily output is about 1 liter. It should be noted that quality and quantity of saliva depend partially on the nerve functioning; when you are calm, your parasympathetic nervous system induces more watery secretions, and when you are under stress or anxiety, your sympathetic nerve produces a thicker saliva leading to the sense of dryness.
As for saliva functions, it is necessary for a normal and healthy mouth. It neutralizes the damaging acidic liquids and foods, and it protects our oral tissues from bacterial infections. Saliva helps wash debris and food away from the gums and teeth, which is important to prevent gum disease and decay.
Furthermore, it facilitates swallowing food, and it is very important in tasting it normally through the taste buds. Proper flow of saliva can prevent development of oral candidiasis. Clearly, a parched mouth is an unpleasant and uncomfortable sensation, and next time we will talk about the symptoms of xerostomia, its causes and how to manage it.