Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. Saliva helps wash away cavity-causing bacteria, provides enzymes to help digest food, protects teeth from decay by neutralizing harmful acids and keeps oral tissues healthy. Without saliva you would lose your teeth much faster
What causes Dry Mouth?
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause. There are over 400 medications that can cause it, but the most common culprits are antihypertensives, antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics and antihistamines. It can also happen when you are under stress or be a sign of a serious health condition. Other causes include radiation therapy and chemotherapy or diseases such as AIDS, diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome.
Dry mouth can cause several problems including difficulty in tasting, chewing or swallowing. It also allows plaque to build up on your teeth faster leading to a high risk of cavities. It can also lead to bad breath, ulceration or soreness of the mouth, gum disease and difficulty in wearing dentures.
How do I treat dry mouth?
Many treatments can help ease the symptoms of dry mouth, including over-the-counter saliva substitutes. Remember to brush and floss twice a day. You may also chew sugar-free gum. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine, smoking, acidic juices, dry foods, and overly salty foods. Drink plenty of water and maintain regular dental visits.
Saliva production is important, not only for the digestion of the food we eat, but also to cleanse and moisten our mouths. Saliva is also important to help prevent infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. We don’t think much about what would happen if we did not have enough saliva production, but it affects thousands of people every day. The majority of us produce enough saliva to prevent any problems, but what happens if we are unable to produce enough saliva?
When we are unable to produce enough, our mouth gets dry (xerostomia) and uncomfortable. Is it a condition we are destined to live with, or are their effective treatments for a dry mouth?
Let’s look at some of the causes of dry mouth:
Certain medical treatments
Surgical removal of salivary glands
Common symptoms of dry mouth may include:
A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
A dry feeling in the throat
A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
A dry, red, raw tongue
Problems speaking or difficulty tasting, chewing, and swallowing
Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat
If you think your dry mouth is caused by certain medication you are taking, talk to your primary physician. They may adjust the dose you are taking or switch you to a different drug that doesn’t cause dry mouth. In addition, an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture may be prescribed. If that doesn’t help a medication that stimulates saliva production may be prescribed.
Other steps you can take that may help improve saliva flow include:
Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
Protecting your teeth by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, using a fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist regularly
Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible
Using a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air
Using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute
If dry mouth is a problem, there are solutions. Talk to our team of service professionals at your next visit and we will be happy to help you.