A dry mouth from reduced salivary flow affects patients in a wide range of ways. Some people with dry mouth only have mild symptoms and light discomfort. However, dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) causes serious health issues for other patients. Here are four fast facts about dry mouth.
1. A Range of Issues May Cause Xerostomia
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, xerostomia is triggered by over 400 known medications. Some commonly prescribed drugs interfere with saliva production, but medicines aren’t the only causes of xerostomia.
Other possible causes of dry mouth include the following:
- Oral changes due to aging
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cystic fibrosis
- Un-managed hypertension
- Nerve damage from injury to neck or head
- Chemotherapy treatments
- Radiation treatments
If you suffer with dry mouth, let your dentist know about your symptoms as soon as possible. The best way to treat xerostomia involves discovering what’s causing the oral dryness problem in the first place.
2. Low or Absent Saliva Affects General Health
Saliva is a necessary fluid that lubricates your mouth. Saliva helps you swallow and break down foods. When a dry mouth condition goes unchecked, the patient with xerostomia may develop severe difficulty or pain swallowing certain foods. Patients who have trouble swallowing nutritious, fresh foods often see their general health quickly decline.
Saliva also helps rebuild enamel on the surfaces of your teeth and washes away microorganisms that cause gum disease and cavities. If your teeth and tongue lose the protection of saliva, you may develop gum disease, extensive cavities in your teeth, and a cracked, dry tongue.
Seek help from your dental professionals if you suffer from symptoms of dry mouth. Your dentist will recommend treatments for dry mouth that address the underlying cause or causes of your xerostomia. The dental professional can also advise you about lifestyle changes that enhance your mouth’s saliva production.
3. Treatments for Xerostomia Vary Depending on the Cause
If your salivary glands are still capable of producing saliva, your dentist may recommend salivary stimulants. A salivary stimulant cues your salivary glands to begin working after you place one of the salivary stimulants in your mouth.
You may be advised to use one of the following types of salivary stimulants:
- Sugar-free chewing gum
- Sugar-free mint
- Sugar-free candy
Other oral medications can act as salivary stimulants. A typical course of treatment with a medication salivary stimulant involves using the product three times a day for at least three months. Salivary stimulants produce side effects in some patients, which may include sweating, stomach upset, and high blood pressure.
Some patients with xerostomia use artificial saliva products, oral moisturizers, and saliva substitutes. Both prescription and over-the-counter saliva products are available, but most saliva products are made with glycerin and other safe lubricating materials.
Saliva substitutes and oral moisturizers don’t cure xerostomia or contain the saliva enzymes necessary for digestive and antibacterial functions. However, the saliva substitutes do relieve some of the symptoms of xerostomia.
4. Lifestyle Changes Enhance Salivary Function
According the American Dental Association, the use of alcohol and tobacco can make dry mouth symptoms worse. Relieve your xerostomia by quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake. Use mouth rinses and other oral-care products that are alcohol-free to help protect your mouth from irritating dryness.
Help your body with saliva production when you practice the following ADA-recommended habits:
- Frequently sip water or caffeine-free beverages.
- Suck on ice chips.
- Apply lip lubricant every two hours.
- Avoid sticky, sweet, spicy, and salty foods.
- Avoid hard-to-chew foods.
- Drink water with meals.
- Humidify your bedroom.
When you follow the above lifestyle tips and get regular dental checkups, you can keep dry mouth from becoming a serious problem.
Receive professional dental treatment and advice for your xerostomia. Contact Apollo Dental today. We treat dental patients of all ages in the Rochester, Minnesota region.