It’s so easy to overlook. You’re so busy attending to everyone else’s needs that you may not even notice the constant thirst, a subtle sore throat or cracked lips. Certainly those symptoms are suggestive that winter is here. But these same symptoms can also result from other unexplained causes or underlying conditions. Regardless of its source, dry mouth, also called xerostomia (zero-STOW-me-uh) puts you at risk for tooth decay, gum disease, thrush and mucositis (inflamed oral tissues).
We’ve already mentioned some of the signs of dry mouth (persistent thirst, dry throat, etc.), but other signs include dry nasal passages, dry tongue, and bad mouth odor as well as trouble speaking and chewing food. Patients with xerostomia typically report that food seems “stickier” and gets caught between and alongside their teeth. This lack of saliva is important because saliva is our chief protection from the bacteria that causes gingivitis, tooth decay and other mouth infections. It washes away the bad bacterium that’s responsible for all sorts of oral disease as well as dilutes and buffers the acids and other harmful substances produced by those bacteria.
The chief cause of dry mouth include over-the-counter medications like decongestants and antihistamines as well as prescription drugs used to treat all sorts of diverse conditions such as acne, high blood pressure, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, obesity and many more. Cancer patients may find that their saliva production is severely reduced following chemotherapy and will benefit from soothing and wetting oral rinses. Other significant causes are Sjogren’s syndrome and radiation treatments for growths and tumors in the head and neck areas, and serious injuries or trauma to the head or neck that results in nerve damage. Dysfunction or even physiologic change in some endocrine (our system of glands and hormones) processes (such as menopause) can cause xerostomia. As if that were not enough, as we age our saliva decreases in amount and increases in thickness or viscosity.
Drink More H20
There is a reason why many health care professionals advise us to drink more water. Dehydration from excessive sweating and consuming beverages with caffeine or alcohol can result in a dry mouth. And besides the risk of cancer, if you smoke or chew tobacco, it can also intensify dry mouth symptoms.
As always, talk to your doctor about dry mouth side effects you’re experiencing with prescription or over-the-counter medication. It’s important that your dentist also be kept informed about any problems or symptoms you have that are suggestive of dry mouth so he can monitor your oral health and suggest preventive measures like home fluoride trays, high fluoride toothpaste (5000 ppm), Biotene toothpaste, and coating/soothing mouth rinses for dry, inflamed oral mucosa. In the meantime, there are small but natural ways you can improve saliva flow which include:
- Chew sugar-free gum (will encourage your salivary glands to produce as much saliva as possible). Suck on sugarless candy or lozenges
- Drink plenty of water to promote general hydration and keep your mouth moist.
- Try to breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Use a whole house, evaporative room humidifier or ultrasonic room vaporizer.
- Use OTC artificial saliva substitutes and sprays such as Oasis, Biotene, etc.
If you don’t see an improvement in your symptoms, be sure to call 248-356-8790 and make an appointment with Dr. Mark Langberg. We’ll do a thorough history and evaluation and get you the help you need so that you can feel better fast and avoid the rampant tooth decay associated with dry mouth. Don’t put off seeing us, we exist solely to help you be comfortable, disease free, and keep your teeth for a lifetime! Come on in and see for yourself how relaxed, pain-free and judgment-free we can be and discover the difference a great dentist makes!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790