A woman who has no saliva glands says any food or drink she puts in her mouth causes her mouth to burn.

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Yesterday I received a call from a family member of a 71-year-old woman who has no saliva glands. Some years ago these were removed. Clinical symptoms are that almost any food or drink she puts in her mouth causes her mouth to burn. Daughter says mother’s mouth looks raw and scalded. Mother is losing weight, becoming malnourished. If the daughter comes to talk about how to help the mother, I want to be well prepared. Have some ideas of my own, like supplements, but also wondered if you have encountered such a case previously. Will be ever grateful for any suggestions.

Vitamin or mineral supplements won’t solve the weight loss problem. This woman needs foods she can tolerate. A liquid meal replacement may be helpful until she can eat regular food again.

I have had patients with this same problem and have recommended artificial saliva. They tell me it has helped immensely. Patricia Sander, a clinical instructor with the School of Dental Hygiene at the University of Minnesota recommends a formula for artificial saliva. A pharmacist can inexpensively mix it as follows: 20 cc of 0.9 to 4% methylcellulose; 10 cc of glycerin; 60 cc of normal saline. (The 4 percent methyl cellulose will make the inside of her mouth more slippery than the 0.9 percent solution.) This formula can be put in either a spray bottle or squeeze bottle. At first, she may need 4 to 6 drops of the solution at a time. She should use it whenever her mouth feels dry during the day. The frequency of use of artificial saliva may decrease over time.

Commercially prepared formulas of artificial saliva are now available. She should ask her pharmacist to order a small bottle for her to try. Her mouth will feel soothed compared to the burning irritation she probably now experiences.

Also be sure to tell her to brush her teeth, gums, and tongue frequently during the day. Her taste will be affected by an unbrushed mouth. She should visit her dentist regularly as saliva helps prevent tooth decay. If she has reduced amounts of saliva, she may experience more cavities than usual.

Hope this helps.