My mouth has become chronically dry. What can I do?

In a previous blog about the affect medications have on the mouth, we wrote that dry mouth (xerostomia) is caused by over 400 different medications. But, there are additional causes of this uncomfortable condition, and your Smile Design Dentistry dentist can help.

mouth is no laughing matter. Dry mouth affects about 10% of all people and is more prevalent in women than men. In addition to decreasing your quality of life, xerostomia can raise your risk of gingivitis (gum disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as thrush. Dry mouth can make it difficult to wear dentures, and to speak and eat. It may even lead to malnutrition.

Saliva has several important functions in maintaining a healthy and comfortable mouth. As a lubricant, it helps protect the soft tissues against ulcers, sores, and uncomfortable friction. Saliva neutralizes acids and helps digest food, initiating the digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth. It helps clear away food particles on and between teeth. It helps re-mineralize tooth enamel. Enzymes in saliva not only start digestion but also contribute to taste. It’s antibodies help defend our bodies against bacterial threat.

Extreme dry mouth and salivary gland dysfunction can produce significant and permanent mouth and throat disorders. If you are chronically or repeatedly suffering from any of the following common symptoms, seek diagnosis and treatment from your local Smile Design dentist.

Common Symptoms of Dry Mouth

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Frequent thirst
  • Sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
  • A dry feeling in the throat
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
  • A dry, red, raw tongue
  • Problems speaking or trouble tasting, chewing, and swallowing
  • Hoarseness,
  • Dry nasal passages,
  • Sore throat, and
  • Bad breath

Common Causes of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth most commonly occurs as a side effect of medications that cause decreased saliva production. These medications include blood pressure medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, and many others. If you are on a medication for more than a few days, for example, in the case of blood pressure, anti-depressants, and Parkinson’s disease medications, dry mouth may make it difficult for you to swallow. These medications repress salivary flow which then increases the acidity levels in your mouth causing the bad bacteria to flourish. Regular prescription fluoride toothpaste use will help neutralize the acidity levels and thus decrease the risk of cavities caused by these bad bacteria. Discussion with us about your condition allows us to help you with the problem if it lasts more than a few days.

Although decreased saliva production most frequently affects elderly people and those who are taking prescription and nonprescription medications, there are many other causes such as radiation treatments to treat cancerous tumors of the head and neck, salivary gland diseases, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, mouth breathing, sleep apnea, and autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, are other risk factors for developing xerostomia. Salivary production can be decreased if a there is nerve damage to the head or neck due to an injury or surgery, or if a major salivary duct becomes blocked from a stone or infection. Dry mouth will often occur during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to dehydration and hormonal changes. Other causative factors include smoking or chewing tobacco, stress, anxiety, depression, and dehydration.

Solutions for Dry Mouth

Talk to your dentist at Smile Design dentist to help determine and understand why you are experiencing this condition. If medications are the cause, a consultation with your prescribing doctor may result in an adjustment in dosage or change in medication. An oral rinse can be prescribed to help restore mouth moisture. If that doesn’t help, a medication can be prescribed to boost saliva production.

If your symptoms are not severe, the following may increase saliva production and provide comfort:

  • Suck on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
  • Drink plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse, and visit your dentist regularly.
  • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible.
  • Use a room vaporizer to add moisture to the bedroom air.
  • Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute.

Always remember we are here to help you understand and find solutions for any oral health discomfort or issues that arise. If you are experiencing symptoms, give us a call today.