General, Oral Hygiene

Suffering from Dry Mouth?

Why is my mouth always dry?

Most of us have experienced a sensation of dry mouth at least once in our lives perhaps when we have been nervous, upset or dehydrated. Under these circumstances it is considered perfectly normal to have this parched sensation. However, if you experience dry mouth everyday your mouth may be trying to tell you something!

Dry mouth, a condition known to health professionals as xerostomia, occurs when there is not enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Some people think of dry mouth as just an inconvenience and have mild discomfort, while for others it is a serious, debilitating health problem.

Saliva is there for a reason and having a persistent dry mouth can make it difficult to do basic but necessary things like chewing,  swallowing and speaking. On average, a healthy person produces 1.5L of saliva a day. It is rich in minerals and is the key component in keeping teeth strong and resistant to cavities and in helping to decrease the accumulation of plaque. A decrease or restriction in saliva flow can lead to the dryness that causes bad breath, extensive tooth decay, mouth sores, inflammation of tissue, and oral infections. Dentures can also become loose fitting since saliva helps to create the suction between dentures and the gums.

Symptoms of dry mouth:

  • dry, raw, rough tongue
  • mouth sores
  • mouth infections
  • bad breath
  • burning sensation in the mouth/throat
  • trouble tasting
  • frequent thirst
  • sore throat, hoarseness
  • dry nasal passages
  • cracked and dry lips

Causes of Dry Mouth

Many people think that dry mouth is a normal part of the aging process, but it is a common side effect of many medications. Since older persons are more likely taking medications, as a group, they tend to have a higher incidence of this condition.

There are literally hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can cause a dry mouth effect. Among the more are drugs that are used to treat depression and anxiety, antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, high blood pressure medications, anti-diarrheal, chemotherapy drugs, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, and Parkinson’s disease medications.

Patients undergoing certain cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy commonly experience dry mouth. Radiation can damage the glands that produce saliva and chemotherapy medications have been known to change the nature and saliva flow.

Xerostomia can also be a sign of more serious diseases such as:

  • HIV/Aids
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Alzheimer
  • Stroke

Strategies for Dry Mouth:

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1. Ensure that you are brushing at least 3 times/day and flossing before bed.
2. Increase your fluid intake
3. Using a humidifier at night to keep the air moist
4. Sipping water or sugarless drinks during meals
5. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva flow
6. Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and highly acidic juices
7. Avoid dry food such as crackers and toast
8. Avoid very salty foods
9. Use alcohol/peroxide free mouth rinses
10. While dry mouth may not sound like a serious health problem, it can be the manifestation of one and cause many dental problems
11. Restore any dental issues that have arisen due to dry mouth.
12. Choose a product from your local pharmacy for help with dry mouth. This includes, sprays, rinses and special toothpastes. You may have to try a few until you find one that works best for you.
13. Limit your meals to 3-4/day and space them out 4-5 hours
14. Use a nasal spray if you are experiencing sinusitis

If you have a sticky, parched feeling or a burning sensation in your throat or mouth often or all of the time you should see us right away so we can help you find relief for your specific situation. Understanding what is causing your dry mouth will help us determine the most effective type of treatment.  This is why we ask you to provide us with an up-to-date medication list and other information about your health at each appointment.

We also encourage you to speak with your physician or pharmacist about your medications. In some cases, a different medication can be provided or your dosage modified to alleviate dry mouth symptoms.

Because you have a higher risk of cavities and gum disease with dry mouth, which can spread more quickly than usual, it is important to visit your dentist regularly. As your partner in dental health the dentists at Your Smile Dental Care can recommend products to help you manage dry mouth.

Yours in better dental health,
Dr. Sam Axelrod and the Your Smile Dental Care Team
(905) 576-4537
(416) 783-3533

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