Updated: Jun 9
What Is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough saliva. Not only is it very uncomfortable, it also can negatively affect your oral health. Medications are the number one cause of dry mouth, and literally hundreds of medications are known to cause it.
People with dry mouth are at a much higher risk of getting recurrent decay (cavities), and soft tissue infections (gums, cheek lining and tongue) than someone with an adequate amount of saliva. This is very common in older people, mostly because they often take several different medications.
Medications – both the ones your doctor prescribes and the ones you buy over the counter, can cause this. You’ve probably heard it on numerous commercials for all kinds of medications. Does this sound familiar? “Side effects may include: dry mouth,” (and then a list of others). It’s almost always one of the first things mentioned. And this can have a definite impact to your oral health.
This is why your dentist should always know of all the medications you take, including over-the-counter products, vitamins, and even supplements.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) Symptoms
Difficulty eating dry foods
Can’t taste foods as well
Difficulty swallowing and speaking
Hoarseness/dry nasal passages
Constant sore throat
Chapped or inflamed lips
(Women) lipstick sticking to the teeth
Cracking of the oral mucosa (soft tissues)
Inflammation or ulcers of the tongue
Problems wearing removable dentures
Always feeling thirsty (particularly at night)
Sticky feeling in the mouth
More than 400 medications are known to cause dry mouth. People who suffer from dry mouth should see their dentist regularly, even if they’ve never had decay problems in their past. It also can make denture wearing very uncomfortable.
Parkinson’s disease medications
Alzheimer’s disease medications
Certain blood pressure and heart medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, heart rhythm medications, and diuretics
Sjogren’s Syndrome medications
Oral acne medications
Anti- anxiety medications
Anti-nausea and anti-diarrheal medicines
Narcotic pain medications
Scopolamine, used to prevent motion sickness
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Dry mouth can be a bothersome problem. However, many times, the benefits of using a medicine outweigh the risks and discomfort of dry mouth. Drinking plenty of water or chewing sugarless gum may help relieve your symptoms. Saliva substitutes, such as those you spray into your mouth, may also be effective.
Use over the counter products to help moisturize your mouth. These can include prescription or over-the-counter mouth rinses, artificial saliva or moisturizers to lubricate your mouth. Mouthwashes designed for dry mouth, especially ones with xylitol, can be effective, such as Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse or Act Dry Mouth Mouthwash, which also offer protection against tooth decay.
You should see your dentist regularly. Depending on the severity of your xerostomia, you may need to be seen every few months, to catch any recurring decay issues early, while the teeth are still restorable. Decay recurs at a much faster rate in a dry mouth.
To help prevent cavities, your dentist might fit you with fluoride trays, which you fill and wear over your teeth at night. Your dentist may also recommend weekly use of a chlorhexidine rinse to help control cavities.
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