Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition that causes dryness in the mouth. It is known to affect women more than men.
It is caused due to decreased salivary secretions. Several factors that may cause dry mouth condition are certain medications like antihistamines and antihypertensives, excessive smoking, salivary gland disorders, radiation therapy, etc.
The treatment approach is usually conservative and involves maintenance of oral hygiene, use of drugs like Sialogogues which stimulate salivary flow, non-orthodox adjunctive therapies such as the use of essential oils or chewing gums.
Essential oils, like peppermint oil, clove, and tea tree oil, are often believed to be effective techniques as an alternative medicine to treat oral conditions like dry mouth, halitosis or gingivitis.
However, the use of essential oil is a form of palliative therapy and one cannot solely rely on it to cure xerostomia as it does not treat the underlying cause.
It is thus advisable to consult your dentist for the appropriate treatment planning.
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth, as the name suggests, is a condition characterized by dryness of the mouth. It is often accompanied with thick, ropy saliva, bad breath, chapped lips and difficulty in chewing and swallowing.
It is common in older individuals due to decreased salivary secretion either due to aging or side effects of medications.
The medications implicated in causing xerostomia to include decongestants, antihypertensive, antidepressants, anticholinergics, etc.
It is also seen in association with maladies such as diabetes, oral candidiasis, Sjogren syndrome, HIV infection, etc. (1)
Dry mouth could also have non-systemic causes such as inadequate consumption of water, eating dry foods and dry, hot climate.
It is fundamental to identify the underlying cause for treating xerostomia.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are liquids containing compounds that are extracted from plants. It is commonly named after the plant from which the oil is extracted.
Oils are believed to capture the plant’s fragrance which is considered therapeutic.
These oils are extracted from plants and herbs through various chemical processes such as distillation, cold pressing or tapping methods.
Essential oils are found in a variety of products ranging from cosmetics and perfumes to detergents and incense.
They are believed to be effective in treating common health problems like anxiety, stress, headaches and migraine, insomnia, etc.
Can essential oils treat dry mouth condition?
Essential oils are an alternative form of medicine which has been popularized in recent years, especially in practicing aromatherapy.
However, the use of essential oils to exclusively treat medical conditions has been a subject of ongoing research. There has not been enough evidence to substantiate the same.
These essential oils are found either in formulations of mouth rinses or simply mixed concoctions of oil that can be directly applied to the gums and tongue. (2)
Essential oils do have specific merits as a natural and alternate form of remedy.
But it would not be wise to solely treat a medical condition using essential oils as they provide temporary relief but do not address the exact cause of the condition.
Similarly, essential oils just make for good adjunctive therapy modules for dry mouth condition. Peppermint, Patchouli and Spearmint oil have distinct aromas that can help to treat the bad breath often associated with dry mouth.
Cinnamon and Tea Tree oil possess anti-inflammatory properties that can decrease oral inflammation and ward off infections.
Clove oil contains an ingredient, eugenol, that has an active anti-caries effect and helps prevent halitosis.
What is the right way to treat dry mouth?
You should consult a dentist as soon as you experience the symptoms of dry mouth. It is essential to identify the exact cause of dry mouth to treat it effectively.
Also, there are various at home remedies that have proven helpful in relieving symptoms of dry mouth.
- Reduce the consumption of alcohol and cutting down cigarette smoking will help reduce the symptoms of dry mouth.
- Minimizing the use of caffeine as it may accentuate the dryness in the mouth.
- Chewing gums or sucking on candy will help to stimulate salivary flow.
- Sipping of water throughout the day.
- Alternative natural remedies like essential oils help to alleviate symptoms of dry mouth.
- Improve oral hygiene by following and maintaining a proper oral care routine such as toothbrushing, flossing, mouthwashes, and gargles.
- Consult your dentist before using any Over-The-Counter salivary substitutes. These products can provide temporary relief.
Take away message
Dry mouth or xerostomia is a condition that is caused by decreased salivary secretions. It can be attributed to a variety of causative factors such as aging, salivary gland disorders, medications, chronic conditions such as HIV, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, etc.
It is not wise to solely rely on alternative medicinal therapy, such as essential oils, for treating dry mouth condition.
Adjunctive therapies are known to provide symptomatic relief, but they are more palliative than curative.
It is of paramount importance to identify the cause of the condition for the right treatment approach.
Consult your dentist to contrive an effective treatment plan.