Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common problem with many causes. What many people don’t understand is the problems it can cause and how easily it can be treated.
What is Dry Mouth?
Saliva moistens and cleanses our mouth. Not only does it help us digest food, it also helps to protect our teeth from plaque and bacteria.
What is Dry Mouth?
The symptoms of dry mouth are common, and you may recognize a few:
- Dryness in the mouth and throat
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, or swallowing
- Lipstick sticking to teeth
- Saliva that seems thick or stringy
- Sores in the mouth or sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth
- Dry lips
What Causes Dry Mouth?
There are several causes of dry mouth:
- Medications – dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds. Medications for hypertension, asthma, and Parkinson’s disease can all also cause dry mouth.
- Diseases and infections – dry mouth can be a side effect of several medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, stroke, and more.
- Side effect of treatments – chemotherapy and radiation treatments that focus on the head and neck can damage the salivary glands. Other forms of damage to the salivary glands can also cause dry mouth.
- Nerve damage – dry mouth can be caused by nerve damage to the head and neck area from injury, stroke, or surgery.
- Age – older people are more likely to have conditions or take medications that increase their chances of developing dry mouth.
- Smoking – smoking or chewing tobacco can affect how much saliva you make and can contribute to dry mouth. Breathing with your mouth open regularly can also contribute.
What are Complications of Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth increases your risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and mouth infections like thrush, which is an oral fungal infection.
It can also make it difficult to wear dentures or keep them in place.
Preventing Dry Mouth
There are preventative measures you can take on your own to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth:
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Avoid drinks with caffeine
- Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow
- Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
- Minimizing spicy or salty foods which can cause pain in a dry mouth
- Avoiding acidic or sugary foods
- Using a humidifier at night
Treating Dry Mouth
If your dentist or doctor finds that you are suffering from dry mouth, your doctor might try to change up your prescriptions or dosages in order to protect your teeth and mouth.
Your doctor or dentist may also prescribe an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture, or prescribe a medication that boosts saliva production like Salagen.
There are also over the counter artificial saliva substitutes you can find at your local drug store that will offer some relief. Talk to your dentist to find out of these types of treatments are right for you.