Millions of Americans suffer from dry mouth also called xerostomia. Dry mouth can be caused by many factors such as drinking alcohol, certain systemic diseases such as Sjogren’s, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s and Diabetes. Chemotherapy and radiation to the head and neck are also major contributing factors to dry mouth as radiation can damage the salivary glands and Chemotherapy can thicken the saliva, hence making the mouth feel dry. One of the biggest contributing factors to dry mouth is the use of medications. About 400 medications have dry mouth listed as a side effect. The more medications you take, the more likely you are to have xerostomia.
Antihistamines and anti depressants are some of the most common medications contributing to dry mouth. Dry air during the winter months can also trigger dry mouth. The use of a humdifier may aid in resolving this. However persistent dry mouth can be a sign of more serious disease such as Sjorgrens or Crohn’s disease.
Saliva is important because it is the first step in the digestion of food. Enzymes in saliva act as the first step in breaking down the food. Saliva also aids in the natural defense system of the body against bacterial infections in the mouth since it creats a natural balance of oral flora. Saliva is also important in the process of cleansing the mouth since it naturally washes away food particles from your teeth. Lack of saliva can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
If you have dry mouth, the first step is to visit your dentist to help point to the cause. In cases of chronic dry moth your dentist may recommend more frequent oral hygiene appointments to aid in keeping your gums and teeth healthy. Some over the counter remedies may help such as Biotene products, oral sprays and products such as xylimelts. I persoanlly like xylimelts for the night time since it delivers constant relief while you are sleeping. They are tablets that you adhere to the roof of your mouth. During sleep, our saliva naturally slows down as the body tries to relax. This is difficult for patients that suffer from dry mouth. It may interrupt their sleep due to constant need to drink water.
Lack of saliva can cause bad breath and be embarrassing. Furthermore, food particles tend to stick to teeth more readily. It may cause cracked dry lips which can be painful. Without saliva in can be difficutl to taste your food since saliva carries flavors to nerve cells.
Smoking can make dry mouth worse. Although smoking by itself doesn’t cause dry mouth it can aggravate it.. Alcohol and caffeine are also culprits since they are dehydrating naturally.
Sucking on sugar free candy or chewing sugar free gum may help with temporary relief for some people since they can stimulate saliva flow.
Sipping water frequently helps but stay away from sugary or acidic or caffeinated drinks. Drinking water or milk with meals can help with chewing and swallowing. Medications such as Salagen may help increase saliva flow caused by Sjogren’s syndrome, radiation or chemotherapy. If you suffer from dry mouth, call our dental office in Escondido, California at 760-747-1811 and we would be happy to help you. Also see our new patient promotions.