Many of our patients we see here at Dental Associates of West Michigan deal with the condition of dry mouth either from time to time or as a result of a medical condition or prescribed medication. Dry mouth affects oral health and can result in cavities or other problems. Here we will talk about what it is, all of the things that cause it, and how to alleviate it if you have it.
What Is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is simply a lack of saliva in the mouth. Normally, your mouth creates a flow of saliva that washes away food particles and keeps the gum and other tissues in your mouth moist. Saliva contains antibodies that help maintain the balance of bacteria. If there isn’t enough saliva in your mouth, that bacteria proliferates and your oral health is at greater risk of developing cavities, gingivitis, tooth loss, burning mouth syndrome, or problems swallowing and tasting.
Dry mouth isn’t a disease in and of itself. It’s a medical condition that is caused by a number of things large and small. It can be a result of simple dehydration from heat or exercising too much. You can suffer a reversible form of dry mouth because of smoking, vaping, chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol, or doing drugs.
Many different medical conditions have dry mouth as a side effect of problems in the body. These include diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, gland problems, and eating disorders.
Over time as people age and their hormones change, they are more likely to suffer from dry mouth. A variety of medications people take can also cause it like antihistamines, antidepressants, pain killers, and cancer treatments. People with asthma are also at risk if they use inhalers. Older people are much more likely to have problems with dryness in their mouths because they are on medication for different conditions.
How Can Dentists Help Alleviate Dryness?
There are ways to get relief from dryness in the mouth. If it’s the result of taking medication, talk to your doctor about your dosage or other alternatives. If that doesn’t help, there are some ways to increase the moisture in your mouth. You can use oral sprays or mouthwashes, lozenges, or sugar free gum to stimulate your mouth to make more saliva.
If your dry mouth is caused by dryness in the air, you can add a humidifier to your bedroom or living room. Avoid foods or beverages that cause dehydration or irritate the oral tissues. These would include coffee, soda, alcohol, and acidic fruit juices like orange juice. Also limit your consumption of salt and salty foods. It’s always a good idea to drink more water too. It will flush out all the tissues in your body, including your mouth.
To mitigate the danger dry mouth poses to your teeth and gums, be sure to brush and floss regularly and go to your dentist for your regular check ups. He can assess the damage your dry mouth poses and make additional suggestions or tell you whether you should seek treatment from a physician.