One way we are able to keep our mouth fresh and help to flush bacteria is with our own saliva. However, many patients do not produce a sufficient amount of saliva and suffer from a dry mouth, with the more chronic and serious condition called xerostomia. When the symptoms persist, a visit with the dentist can provide treatment or ideas on how to treat this condition.
Dry mouth can occur for many reasons: advanced age, depression, medication, dehydration, salivary glands injury, underlying medical condition, or medical intervention to treat salivary glands such as radiation.
Many medicines used to treat colds or sinus problems contain a drying agent (antihistamine or decongestant) that can dry the mouth and throat. Staying hydrated with water or non-caffeinated beverages is your best option while taking these medicines. Sipping water throughout the day and even during the night as needed is helpful.
However, for conditions where medications must be taken long term, your doctor may be able to adjust your dosage or modify the brand you are taking to provide relief.
When dry mouth persists, there are concerns about dental decay and the potential for gum disease. Stimulating saliva production by sucking on sugar free candy or chewing sugar free gum can be helpful. Using sugary snacks or beverages can promote cavities.
In addition to the potential for decay or periodontal concerns, having a dry mouth can disrupt other functions that saliva aids … speaking clearly, chewing food properly, swallowing and proper digestion. Try to limit or avoid alcoholic beverages (there are some mouthwashes that contain alcohol so be aware of the contents of the products you use). Limit salty foods as well as curtail the use of table salt wherever possible.
Besides saliva production, there are other things that must be done to prevent dental decay:
- Daily flossing and brushing with a soft bristle tooth brush using fluoridated tooth paste or gel.
- Seeing the dentist twice yearly for a complete cleaning and dental exam.
- Discontinue tobacco use in every form.
There are products available that enhance the capability to produce saliva. If one doesn’t work, your dentist can introduce one of the other products on the market. If these products are insufficient, there are more extensive treatments that your dentist may recommend.
To learn more about causes and treatment for dry mouth, get in touch with us today.