Does your mouth feel like the parched Sahara Desert? If so, you may be going through an oral drought called dry mouth. Scientifically known as ‘xerostomia’ (zeer-oh-stomia), dry mouth is a common condition caused by a decrease in saliva. It can affect our speech and how we taste our food. Xerostomia also can have adverse affects on our oral health — less saliva means less protection against oral decay.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is a common side effect of medications, including OTC cold medicines and painkillers, as well as certain cancer therapies. If you are taking multiple drugs, prescription or otherwise, there is an increased risk of suffering from xerostomia side effects. In extreme cases, dry mouth may be a symptom of an autoimmune disorder called Sjögren’s syndrome, where the body attacks its moisture-producing glands.
How to Diagnose Dry Mouth
Diagnosing dry mouth requires an updated medical history along with a list of any medications (prescription/non-prescription) that you are currently taking. Your Placerville dentist does an extra-oral and intra-oral examination, along with palpation of the salivary glands to rule out tenderness, firmness, or enlargement of the salivary glands and ducts. Your own testimony about your condition is also considered.
Treating Dry Mouth
Treating dry mouth is usually done with over-the-counter synthetic saliva substitutes and mouth rinses like Biotene, and with prescription medications in more severe cases. Because all drugs have side effects of some kind, a prescription is usually not the first option for treatment. Treating dry mouth, however, is important. If you have it, you have a higher risk of developing cavities. Saliva is essential for oral health because it keeps soft mouth tissues moist, carries the elements that remineralize teeth and fights bad oral bacteria. Many with dry mouth may suck on hard candies or mints, but these contain sugar which also isn’t good for oral health. Therefore, the Placerville Dental Group may recommend extra fluoride treatments if you have dry mouth. Additionally, lack of saliva usually means the dry mouth sufferer also battles bad breath.
Precautions if You Have Dry Mouth
In order to prevent cavities, its even more important for patients with dry mouth to brush after every meal and floss daily. When brushing is not an option, try chewing sugar-free gum to help remove food debris and increase saliva production. Limit your refined carb intake, especially sugary and sticky foods like cookies, bread, potato chips, and candy. It’s also a good idea to limit soda and caffeine, since many sodas contain both tooth-damaging sugars and acids; caffeine can increase the symptoms of dry mouth. To help improve your overall health and wellness, carry a refillable water bottle with you to sip on throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and stay hydrated.
To avoid dry mouth and it’s bad effects, we all need a healthy amount of saliva production, otherwise we experience tooth decay and bad breath. Fight tooth decay by having a daily oral care routine and visit our Placerville dentists regularly. If you have dry mouth or suspect you do, be sure to ask our dental specialists for a consultation. Our dentists create individualized treatment options so your mouth is as healthy as can be!