Got Dry Mouth?
August 28, 2012
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Got Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common oral problem faced by many patients.  As we age, our salivary glands begin to produce less saliva.  The good news is we overproduce saliva when we are younger so a slight reduction as we age usually isn’t a problem, and most of the time, isn’t even noticeable to us.  Other causes of dry mouth include medical conditions such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and diabetes as well as medications.  Hundreds of commonly used medications cause dry mouth as a side effect and taking multiple medications, can amplify the drying effect.  Radiation treatment for cancer patients can also cause dry mouth if the salivary glands are in the path of the radiation.

Having a chronically dry mouth can cause many oral problems.  The gums can become irritated and inflamed, and tooth decay can develop and progress very quickly.  Saliva acts to flush away bacteria and plaque and also helps to neutralize acid in our mouths.  Without saliva, plaque and bacteria build up to high levels, and the mouth becomes more acidic causing cavity formation.  Also, dry mouth can cause dentures and partial dentures to not fit as well and cause sore spots.  Saliva acts as a lubricant and as a seal for dentures to hold them in place and prevent irritation.  Bad breath is also a very common complaint when patients suffer from dry mouth.

There are available treatments for dry mouth.  Drinking water frequently helps but has to be repeated often and doesn’t help while sleeping.  Medications that increase saliva can be helpful but also have side effects that many patients find unacceptable.  If a patient’s dry mouth is being caused by medications, often switching to an alternative medication that doesn’t cause dry mouth is an option. However, consult with your physician before changing or stopping your medications.

There are some over-the-counter products, such as Biotene, that act to help moisten the mouth.  Some of the products contain salivary proteins and enzymes that help kill bacteria.  Avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes, as they will cause more drying of the tissues.  To help prevent cavities, it is important to maintain regular brushing, flossing, and fluoride use.   Using a prescription fluoride toothpaste or over-the-counter fluoride rinse can help.   Keeping your normal check-ups at the dental office will help to ensure any problems are treated as early as possible.  Patients with higher incidence of cavities sometimes need more frequent dental check-ups.

If you have questions about dry mouth or would like to try some samples of dry mouth products, please contact our office at 937-434-8870 or [email protected]

The Almoney and Brown Dental Team