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Dry Mouth: The Risks & Treatments of Xerostomia

Woman pouring blue mouthwash into the cap

You’re probably familiar with many of the most common concerns for your oral health. But did you know that something as seemingly innocuous as dry mouth can lead to major dental problems? Due to the ranging experiences of those with dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, it’s not treated seriously even in cases where it should. Your dental health relies on a proper balance of moisture and acidity to prevent bacteria and infection. Read on to learn the risks and solutions involved in dry mouth and protect yourself from its effects.

Causes of Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)

The specific cause of dry mouth is when glands in your mouth reducing their production of saliva. There are several reasons that these glands can function improperly, and the most common causes are:

  • Stress
  • Nervousness
  • Medication side-effects
  • Aging
  • Chemotherapy
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Dehydration

While some of these causes will lead to temporary cases of dry mouth, like nervousness or brief moments of stress, others can cause chronic dry mouth.

Medication is another very common cause of chronic dry mouth. There are hundreds of common medications that potentially cause the side-effect xerostomia. Prescribed medications like anti-depressants or pain medication and over-the-counter drugs like decongestants or anti-histamines are all potential sources of dry mouth.

It’s also possible for autoimmune disorders to cause xerostomia, like Sjogren’s syndrome. Two common symptoms of Sjorgen’s syndrome are a decrease in production of tears and saliva, leading to dry eyes and dry mouth. This disorder is most common in women, and while it can impact people of any age, it typically is seen in those 40 or older.

Health Concerns Regarding Dry Mouth

The primary concern of chronic dry mouth is that it causes you to be much more likely to develop gingivitis and tooth decay. Saliva helps break down food and wash away bacteria from your teeth. Without it, or with greatly reduced saliva, it becomes more likely for bacteria to grow into harmful plaque. This affects both your teeth and your gum health.

With dry mouth, you will be more susceptible to mouth infections such as thrush. Just like with your teeth and gums, the germ that causes thrush benefits from a dry environment in your mouth.

Lastly, for those wearing dentures, xerostomia will make wearing them must more uncomfortable. While dry mouth itself makes you more likely to develop thrush, this issue is compounded for those with dry mouth and wearing dentures.

Importance of Saliva

Xerostomia’s effects on your saliva production are more significant than the discomfort from dry mouth. Saliva performs several important functions that improve your dental health as well as your overall health:

  • Promotes healthy digestion
  • Protects the soft tissue in your mouth
  • Maintains an important pH balance in your mouth
  • Aids in swallowing and speaking

These reasons are why it’s important to contact your medical or dental professional when you experience chronic dry mouth. Without correction, it can lead to larger health concerns and worsening oral health.

Best Ways to Prevent & Treat Dry Mouth

If you experience chronic dry mouth, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist where they can help you identify it or direct you to your general physician. If you do, it’s likely that they will recommend one of the following solutions:

Oral Rinse – The simplest solution is an oral rinse or moisturizer. There are options both prescribed or over-the-counter rinses, and they will restore moisture for short-term dry mouth problems. One popular over-the-counter rinse is Biotene®, which we often recommend to our patients. It’s alcohol-free and sugar-free, making it an excellent solution to restore balance to your mouth’s pH level and soothe dry mouth irritation.

Artificial Saliva – While not as effective as natural saliva, saliva substitutes can help lessen the impacts of dry mouth and improve comfort for those suffering from chronic dry mouth. Stick to ADA-approved artificial saliva, and speak with your dentist for recommendations if you think this option may help you.

Prescribed Medications – Your dentist may recommend you speak with your general physician regarding certain prescription medications that can help stimulate saliva production.

Tips for Improving Saliva Flow and Preventing Dry Mouth

While the treatments listed above are important for handling chronic xerostomia, there are less drastic solutions for short-term problems with dry mouth. Here are some tips for promoting saliva production that can be done easily without consulting medical professionals:

Drinking Water – For general health and dental health, drinking water is always a good practice. Make sure to stay consistently hydrated throughout the day to prevent short-term cases of dry mouth.

Breathe Through Your Nose – Breathing through your mouth increases the airflow and removes moisture. By breathing through your nose, you’ll lower the amount of saliva required to keep your mouth moist.

Sugar-Free Gum & Candy – Chewing on sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candies will promote saliva production. Just be sure to avoid sticky candy or candy full of sugar, as that will only trade one problem for another!

Do You Have Dry Mouth? Schedule an Appointment Today!

Pointe Dental Group can provide you with a complete examination, answer your questions, and discuss your treatment options. Schedule an appointment with us today! New patients can receive FREE comprehensive exam and consultation, plus a full panoramic x-ray with a paid cleaning procedure (a $200 value)!

Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300

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