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Do you experience dryness and stickiness in your mouth? Are you struggling to keep your dentures in place? Is bad breath a problem? You may have a condition called dry mouth. Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, occurs when we don’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth is usually a symptom of another condition rather than a separate disease. However, it can be uncomfortable and make chewing and swallowing challenging. Fortunately, your family dentist has several tools to prevent and treat dry mouth.
What Are The Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is most common in older adults. One of the warning signs is trouble wearing your dentures. They may lose their grip, making talking and eating more challenging. Other symptoms include:
- Thick or stringy saliva
- A sticky sensation in your mouth
- Bad breathTrouble chewing or swallowing
- Dryness on the tongue
- Dry or sore throat
- Changes to your sense of taste
Is Dry Mouth Serious
Saliva plays a significant role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease by washing away bacteria. It also helps you chew, swallow and digest your food. When you don’t make enough saliva, it can cause tooth decay, contribute to gum disease and cause mouth sores, inflammation and oral yeast infections. Dry mouth and related problems with dentures can also affect appetite and nutrition, especially in seniors.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
- Dry mouth can be a symptom of several chronic illnesses, including diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease and HIV/AIDS.
- Numerous medications can cause dry mouth, including antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers and diuretics.
- Radiation treatments for cancer can reduce saliva levels.
- Tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs, including marijuana, can contribute to dry mouth.
- Patients with Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder where your immune system attacks the salivary glands, often experience dry mouth.
How Can I Prevent Dry Mouth?
Seeing your dentist twice a year for regular checkups can help prevent dry mouth. Be sure to let your dentist know if you have changes in your health history or medications. Other prevention strategies include:
- Brush and floss your teeth regularly.
- Stay hydrated to promote adequate saliva production.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Avoid or quit smoking and tobacco use and recreational drugs.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Use over-the-counter antihistamines with caution. Talk with your primary care provider and dentist if you use them regularly.
- Sleep with a humidifier and try to avoid breathing through your mouth.
How Can My Dentist Treat Dry Mouth?
If you have symptoms of dry mouth, talk with your family dentist. Various over-the-counter and prescription treatments can help restore moisture to your mouth.
- Artificial saliva products contain water, enzymes and electrolytes to replicate saliva’s role in your mouth. They’re available in spray, rinse, gel and tablet forms.
- Over-the-counter rinses like Biotene and ACT Dry Mouth temporarily relieve symptoms and reduce bad breath.
- Sugar-free gum or hard candy can stimulate saliva production.
- Your dentist may recommend prescription treatments for severe dry mouth from Sjögren’s syndrome, cancer therapy or other conditions.
- If a new medication for another condition causes dry mouth, discuss changing your dose or switching prescriptions.
Working With Your Family Dentist to Relieve Dry Mouth
Your family dentist is an excellent first resource for dry mouth. In addition to treating the symptoms, your dentist will focus on keeping your teeth healthy when saliva production is low. For example, you might need fluoride trays or a cavity-preventing rinse to increase resistance to tooth decay. At Hall Family Dentistry, our goal is to provide relief from symptoms while keeping your overall health in mind. We can often treat dry mouth with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter products. In more severe cases, we may need to work with your primary care provider to review how chronic illness and medications affect your oral health.