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Saliva plays an important role in chewing, swallowing, digesting, and speaking. It also helps control bacteria in your mouth, which helps prevent infection and tooth decay.
If you have a condition that causes you to have less natural saliva than is typical, artificial saliva can relieve the symptoms of dry mouth and help you avoid health complications.
Artificial saliva comes in several forms, including:
- oral spray
- oral rinse
- dissolving tablets
Natural saliva is made up of mostly water but also contains enzymes, electrolytes, and mucus. Artificial saliva isn’t exactly the same as the saliva produced naturally by our glands, but its combination of ingredients can help relieve symptoms.
Artificial saliva ingredients vary by brand and type, but most are a combination of water and the following:
- Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). CMC increases viscosity and helps lubricate the oral cavity. A 2008 study to investigate the effects of CMC-based artificial saliva in those with dry mouth found that it decreased the severity of oral dryness and the effect of oral dryness on daily life.
- Glycerin. Glycerin is a colorless, odorless lipid. In artificial saliva, glycerin coats the tongue, teeth, and gums to reduce moisture loss and protect the mouth from mechanical trauma.
- Minerals. Minerals such as phosphates, calcium, and fluoride can help protect and strengthen your teeth and gums.
- Xylitol. Xylitol is believed to increase saliva production and protect teeth from bacteria and decay.
- Other ingredients. Artificial saliva products also contain preservatives to maintain shelf life and flavoring agents to give them a pleasant taste.
Artificial saliva is a saliva substitute that temporarily moistens and lubricates the mouth and creates a protective film to help reduce the risk of mechanical trauma that can result from chronic dry mouth.
It can be used to provide relief of symptoms such as a feeling of dryness or stickiness in the mouth or bad breath.
Your doctor may recommend that you use artificial saliva alongside medications and medical treatments, such as pain medications and chemotherapy, that are known to cause dry mouth. It may also be recommended as part of your treatment for certain medical conditions that cause dry mouth, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Sjögren’s syndrome.
Dry mouth(xerostomia) occurs when your salivary glands don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. There are number of possible causes.
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause dry mouth. Some of the most common are those used to treat high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, and congestion and allergies. Pain medications and muscle relaxants are also known to cause dry mouth.
Chemotherapy drugs can reduce saliva production. Radiation treatments that target the head and neck can damage your salivary glands and cause problems with salivary flow temporarily or permanently, depending on the location and dose.
Other medical conditions can cause dry mouth, including:
Changes related to aging can also cause dry mouth. These include chronic health problems, poor nutrition, the use of certain medications, and how the body processes medication.
Nerve damage in your head or neck from an injury or surgery can impair saliva function.
Tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drug use
Smoking or chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol, and using recreational drugs, such as marijuana and methamphetamines, can also cause dry mouth and damage your teeth.
Not a cure
Artificial saliva isn’t a cure for dry mouth but can provide temporary relief from the symptoms, which include:
- dryness or sticky sensation in the mouth
- thick or stringy saliva
- bad breath
- dry tongue
- dry throat
- cracked lips
- problems chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- decreased taste
- problems wearing dentures
There are many artificial saliva brands and types available, some over the counter and others by prescription. The following provides a brief description of the most popular brands:
- Aquoral. This is a lipid-based oral spray that should be used three to four times daily. Each canister provides approximately 400 sprays. Aquorol requires a prescription from your doctor.
- Biotène Oralbalance moisturizing gel. This is a sugar-free, alcohol-free, flavorless gel that provides relief of the symptoms of dry mouth for up to 4 hours. Biotène Oralbalance moisturizing gel is available without a prescription and can be purchased here.
- Mouth Kote dry mouth spray. Mouth Kote is a nonprescription oral spray that contains xylitol and provides up to 5 hours of relief from dry mouth symptoms. It contains no sugar or alcohol and has a citrus flavor. Buy it here.
- NeutraSal. This is a prescription-only rinse that can be used 2 to 10 times daily as directed by your doctor. It’s a dissolving powder that you mix with water. It comes in single-use packets.
- Oasis mouth moisturizing spray. This oral spray for dry mouth can be used up to 30 times a day as needed and provides up to 2 hours of relief. Oasis moisturizing mouth spray is available here.
- XyliMelts. XyliMelts are discs that stick to your teeth or gums to relieve dry mouth. Once in place, they slowly release xylitol to provide hours of relief from symptoms while also keeping your breath fresh. They’re available for purchase here.
Artificial saliva products can provide short-term relief of dry mouth symptoms. However, there are currently no products available that perfectly replicate the complex composition of natural saliva, according to a 2013 review.
The treatment of dry mouth should be chosen based on your individual needs and may require trying several products to find the one that works best for you. Proper oral hygiene and eliminating the cause of your dry mouth, if possible, are also important.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of dry mouth. They’ll review your medical history and any medications that you’re taking that may be the cause. Your doctor will likely also examine your mouth.
You may also need blood tests and imaging tests to check your salivary glands to rule out an underlying medical condition.