Managing Dry Mouth
Dry mouth or xerostomia may be a symptom of a medical condition, or it may be caused by other factors such as medications, medical treatment, or certain habits, like tobacco use. Dry mouth can occur along with certain medical conditions. For example, it is a key indication of Sjogren's syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own moisture-producing glands, including the salivary glands. This impairment results in dry mouth due to a lack of saliva. Certain emotional states, such as depression or anxiety, also can leave you feeling like your mouth is dry.
A number of medications can cause dry mouth, such as those used to control allergies, cold symptoms, or blood pressure, as well as some pain relievers or antidepressants. Some medical treatments, like head and neck radiation, can affect the salivary gland and reduce the flow of saliva. There are personal habits, like mouth breathing, drinking alcohol, or using tobacco products that can dry your mouth as well.
Your saliva cleanses your mouth, it helps you to chew and swallow food, and it helps you speak. A lack of salivary flow can make these simple tasks difficult. It may also cause dry, cracked lips, a rough tongue and bad breath. If you are not secreting enough saliva and you wear dentures, you might notice that your dentures do not fit properly. Dentures that fit loosely can cause sores.
Saliva also can help protect your teeth from decay. Your teeth are coated with a film of bacteria called plaque. When you eat or drink foods that contain sugar, these bacteria produce acid that can cause tooth decay. Saliva acts as a buffer lessening the harm that this acid does to your teeth. When you do not have enough saliva, you might develop cavities.
What can you do?
Ways you might find relief include:
- chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candy's to stimulate salivary flow
- sucking on ice chips
- sipping water with meals to aid in chewing and swallowing food
- using alcohol-free mouth rinse
- avoiding carbonated drinks, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol
- using a lanolin-based lip balm to soothe cracked or dry lips
- use toothpaste without SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate)
If you notice that you are experiencing any of the oral health changes listed above, speak with Dr. Mudd. She will do an examination and will ask you questions about your symptoms, overall health, and medical history, including what medications you are taking. Once you've narrowed down what could be causing the problem, it will be easier to develop a plan to help minimize the effects. She may suggest that you use a special gel or rinse designed to keep your mouth moist. If you are developing cavities, Dr. Mudd might prescribe a special toothpaste and/or mouth rinse.
Most importantly, take care of your teeth. Brush twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride. Clean between your teeth by flossing or using an interdental cleaner. Visit our office regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations.