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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for Dry Mouth
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, sounds harmless but can create distressing symptoms. In a normal mouth, small glands produce saliva, which then helps in the processes of speaking, eating, swallowing, and tasting. Saliva also contributes to good oral health, as it hinders the formation of cavities by reducing the build-up of harmful acids in the mouth. Xerostomia increases the chances for bad breath, dry nasal passages, and a hoarse throat as well.

One of the most common reasons xerostomia occurs is due to the side effects from pharmaceutical and street drugs. As far as legal prescription drugs go, there are over 400 medications proven to produce dry mouth as a side effect. Additionally, illegal drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin also possess this harmful quality.

The following are some causes for xerostomia:

  • Some cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy
  • Aging
  • Certain diseases, such Sjogren's syndrome and HIV
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco

According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the universe is made of two components called yin and yang. Yin qualities are feminine in nature and are represented by cold, moistness, dark, and the moon. Yang qualities are masculine in nature and manifest as heat, dryness, light, and the sun. Yin and yang are mutually dependent on each other and can change into each other.

The principles of yin and yang are easily observed in everyday natural phenomenon. For instance, as the sun sets, new colors appear in the sky just as the yang, in the form of sunlight, starts to diminish. The darkness, an expression of yin, grows at precisely the same rate in which yang withers. In this way, the harmony and balance of yin and yang forces are displayed in the heavens.

Dry mouth manifests when there is an imbalance of yin and yang in the body. In this case, the yin quality of moistness is not present, or only in small quantities. This may indicate to a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine that the yang principle of heat may be overactive and contributing to the drying up of yin. Further examination is needed to determine the proper treatment.

Fortunately, a study published in January 2000 in the medical journal Oral Diseases, confirms the efficacy of treating xerostomia with acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Researchers analyzed the data of 70 patients who suffered from dry mouth due to radiation therapies, Sjogren's disease, and other causes. Researchers discovered that patients who received 24 acupuncture treatments had an outstanding improvement in their salivary flow rate (SFR) for up to six months after treatment. It was also concluded that continued acupuncture treatments could increase one's salivary flow rate for up to three years.

If you suffer from dry mouth, consider making an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. To start addressing the issue right away, there are a few ideas to practice at home. Frequent, small sips of water, with a little lemon or lime squeezed into it, may help moisturize your mouth. Try to sleep with your mouth shut and just breathe through your nose while falling asleep. Avoid drying substances like tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol. Consider ending each meal with a light, warm vegetable broth to coat your mouth and throat.

Contact a practitioner near you to learn how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you!

About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.