Talking, chewing, tasting and swallowing are things we do every day without a second thought. This isn’t true for a person with chronic dry mouth.
A glass of water would seem to be the simple solution, but not for most “xerostomia” patients. Their problem is usually more than dehydration. It stems from a reduced production of saliva – with any number of contributing factors.
I see this problem more and more frequently in my practice – weekly rather than just occasionally as in the past. I believe the wide use of many medications contributes to this issue. Dry mouth is highly destructive to teeth, and I think this condition needs to be treated aggressively. It affects many other aspects of living, too.
Without “spit,” talking is difficult. Have you ever gotten nervous and had your mouth go dry? Not pleasant. The croaking voice is not particularly attractive either.
Reduced saliva makes eating problematic. Saliva softens food and helps with chewing. Amylase – one of the enzymes in saliva – helps break down simple starches, aiding digestion. Without saliva, foods can be abrasive and swallowing is hard. Little cuts or scrapes in the mouth can ulcerate, leading to painful canker sores.
Saliva, which is produced by three different sets of salivary glands, is made up of water, mucoproteins, enzymes and antibodies. Because it is slippery, it lubricates the tongue, gums, hard palate, teeth and throat area, making talking and eating easier.
Dry mouth, however, is more than an inconvenience. It puts your dental health at risk. Saliva acts like a bodyguard in the mouth. Without it, teeth are vulnerable and prone to decay. Chronic bad breath becomes an issue, too.
In a healthy mouth, saliva constantly baths the teeth, washing food particles away. It minimizes plaque buildup on the teeth and exposure to plaque acids which contribute to cavity development. Saliva also has antimicrobial properties that fight fungal and bacterial growth, and it aids tooth remineralization by bathing teeth in fluoride and minerals.
So what Causes Chronic Dry Mouth?
All sorts of things can cause this condition. Here are just a few.
• Periodontal disease
• Mouth breathing
• Hormonal changes
• Antihistamines anddecongestants
• Nerve damage or injury to glands
• Prescription medicine: antidepressants, blood pressure meds
• Diseases: diabetes,
Alzheimer’s, Sjogren’s, etc.
• Radiation therapy or chemotherapy
• Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine
If you have any of these contributing factors or suspect that your medications are causing chronic dry mouth, consult your MD or call us for a consultation. I have often worked with my patients MD to deal with the problem. Sometimes switching dosages or making lifestyle changes remedy the situation. Fluoride, oral rinses and prescriptions that stimulate salivation also can alleviate symptoms.
I know chronic dry mouth is a trying condition, but I am here to help. Your comfort and oral health are important to me!
Tip of the Day: When your mouth is dry, chewing sugarless gums or sucking on lozenges or mints will help stimulate saliva production. Look for brands containing the sugarless sweetener xylitol, which is a powerful cavity fighter. Be sure to avoid products with sugar which can rapidly damage your teeth.
Best regards, AM