What to do about my dry mouth?
Xerostomia or dry mouth is a condition in which your mouth is unusually dry. People get dry mouth when the glands in the mouth that make saliva are not working properly. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of people with dry mouth symptoms and the problems that come from a lack of saliva. For many people the consequences of dry mouth can be devastating to your teeth
Saliva is an important part of the health of your mouth. 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 your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow.
In addition to noticeable dry mouth if you’re not producing enough saliva, you may notice the following symptoms: 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 dramatic increase in tooth decay.
Causes of dry mouth are:
- 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, HIV/AIDS and diabetes can cause dry mouth.
- Radiation therapy: Saliva glands can be damaged by radiation to the head and neck.
- Chemotherapy: Drugs used to treat cancer can cause thick saliva
What can I do?
When the cause of the problem either can’t be determined or can’t be resolved, we recommend the following steps to help improve symptoms and keep your teeth healthy:
- sip water or suck ice chips throughout the day to moisten your mouth. Avoid any drinks with sugar including sports drinks.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste. Flouridex toothpaste is available in our office.
- Use a saliva substitute containing carboxymethylcellulose such as Biotene. Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol because alcohol can be drying.
- In severe cases we may recommend that you use an anticavity mouthrinse such as Caries Free.
- Go to your regular dental checkups. It is much easier to fix problems while they are small.