What Do I Do About My Dry Mouth

What do I do about my dry mouth?

One of the most common challenges I have seen lately is problems associated with xerostomia or dry mouth.  People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva stop working properly.  In recent years I have seen an increase in the number of people with dry mouth symptoms and the problems that come from the lack of saliva.  For many people the problems that come from a lack of saliva can be devastating to your teeth.

Saliva is an important part of the health of your mouth.  I can usually tell immediately when I meet someone if they have dry mouth by the way that they speak.  The lack of saliva makes your tongue and cheeks dry and makes it difficult to talk.  Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles.  Enzymes in Saliva kill bacteria and aid in digestion.  Saliva also enhances you ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow.

In addition to noticeable dry mouth if you are not producing enough saliva you may notice bad breath, sore throat, altered sense of taste, trouble chewing and swallowing.  Lack of saliva can lead to infections in your mouth including gingivitis and thrush.  By far the biggest problem that we see is a dramatic increase in tooth decay.  This can be very frustrating when you have gone years without dental problems to suddenly see many cavities at the same time.

What Causes my dry mouth?

  • Aging:  Getting older isn’t a risk factor for dry mouth on its own; however older people are more likely to be taking medications that may cause dry mouth.  Also older people are more likely to have other health conditions that may cause dry mouth.
  • Side effects of some medications:  For example, medications for high blood pressure and depression often cause dry mouth.  This is the most common cause of dry mouth that we see.
  • Disease: some diseases such as Sjogrens Syndrome an diabetes can cause dry mouth.
  • Radiation therapy:  radiation to the head and neck can irreversibly damage saliva glands.
  • Chemotherapy:  Drugs used to treat cancer can change the nature of saliva

What can I do?

When the cause of problems either cant be determined ore resolved we recommend the following steps to help improve symptoms and keep your teeth healthy.

  • Sip water or suck on ice chips throughout the day to moisten you mouth.  avoid the temptation to replace saliva with flavored drinks like sports drinks.  any thing with sugar will compound the problem.
  • Brush with a prescription flouride toothpaste.  Flouridex toothpaste is available in our office.
  • Use a saliva substitute such as Biotene.  Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol because alcohol can be drying.
  • In severe cases we recommend that you use an anticavity mouthrinse such as Caries Free. Cariesfree.com
  • My favorite new product is an antioxidant hydrating system from periosciences.  It uses natural ingredients and has a better flavor than the other options.  periosciences.com 
  • go to your regular dental checkups.  It is much easier to fix problems while they are small.

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