Dealing with Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a condition that is best described as an unusually low amount of saliva in the mouth. When most people hear saliva, gross is the first word that comes to mind. However, a healthy salivary flow is a crucial component to a healthy smile! In today’s blog we’re going to talk about saliva and what happens in its absence.
Saliva is the clear liquid that is present in our mouths. It is produced by the major salivary glands (parotid, sublingual, submandibular) and by many other minor salivary glands throughout your mouth.
Saliva plays a key role in:
- Cleansing the mouth of food/debris that may build up around teeth and gums.
- Preventing bad breath.
- Preventing cavities and gum disease because of the proteins and minerals it contains.
- Tasting, chewing, and swallowing our food.
- The retention to keep dentures in place
- Keeping the mouth moist and comfortable.
Saliva is very important, and often times its production peaks during the day (especially when you smell your favorite dish being prepared) and is at a minimum during the evening hours. The body usually produces 2-4 pints of saliva a day!
Where Did All the Saliva Go?
Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a lack of saliva in the mouth, creating dry and uncomfortable conditions.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth Include:
- Dryness of mouth/throat
- Bad Breath
- Difficulty eating or speaking
- Change in sense of taste
- Problems with Denture retention
- Frequent tooth decay
- Gum irritation and gum disease
There are many causes of dry mouth; perhaps the biggest one is the use of medicine to treat health issues. There are hundreds of drugs that cause dry mouth as a side effect. If dry mouth is being caused by medication, our recommendation is seeing your physician about possibly switching medication or lowering the dosage.
Health conditions such as HIV/AIDS and Sjogren Syndrome often cause dry mouth. Patients who snore and breathe through their mouth may also experience dry mouth symptoms.
Cancer therapy also causes dry mouth. During chemotherapy dry mouth occurs and in some cases is reversible at the conclusion of chemotherapy. Head and neck radiation therapy also causes dry mouth and may cause reversible or irreversible dry mouth depending on if the salivary glands are damaged.
Tobacco use will also lead to dry mouth. Of course our recommendation in this scenario is to cease using tobacco products.
Treatment of Dry Mouth
As mentioned earlier, a discussion with your physician may be necessary to see if changing medications or dosages may help relieve dry mouth symptoms.
Drugs such as salagen or evoxac may be prescribed to help stimulate saliva production in your mouth. Over the counter products like biotene may also be recommended. Biotene serves as a saliva substitute that can be used to rinse the mouth.
Drinking water throughout the day will also help keep the oral cavity hydrated and bring relief. Sugar free chewing gum or sugar free candies can help stimulate saliva production. Try adding a humidifier to your bedroom to help keep the air moist. Use lip balm to help with dry or cracked lips.
Items like caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, over the counter antihistamines and decongestants and sugary candies can make the symptoms of dry mouth worse. It is recommended to avoid or limit the intake of the above list.
As far as home care goes, use fluoride toothpaste and floss your teeth regularly. It is important to keep a strict home care regimen since dry mouth greatly increases the chances for dental decay. We may also recommend the use of a take home fluoride tray. It is loaded with fluoride and worn on the teeth for a few minutes every night to help re-mineralize and strengthen the teeth. Finally, don’t forget your regular dental cleanings and exams!
Thank You for Reading!
If you suspect that you have dry mouth or have any concerns please call us today at 317-535-7141 for a consultation with Dr. Johnson or Dr. Long. We would be happy to help you navigate through the complications of dry mouth and serve your dental needs. Thanks for reading, have a great day!