Chronic dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a common condition, affecting about 10% of all people. It’s most common among older adults and people taking medications. If it’s not treated, it can cause serious problems for your oral health. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your teeth and gums while treating this condition.
Xerostomia occurs when the glands in your mouth are not producing enough saliva. This can cause a number of issues in your mouth and throat. Some of the symptoms you may experience include:
- A dry or sticky feeling in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Thick or stringy saliva
- Changes in your sense of taste
- A burning or tingling sensation on your tongue
- Redness or a raw sensation on your tongue
- Hoarseness or dryness of your throat
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your dentist. They’ll be able to conduct a thorough exam to determine the root causes. Depending on the results, they may also refer you to another doctor for additional tests or treatment.
Xerostomia can be caused by many different conditions. Some of the most common causes include:
- The side effects of many medications, including common prescriptions for hypertension, anxiety, depression, pain treatment and Parkinson’s disease. Over the counter medications for allergies can also be a factor.
- Medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation
- Medical conditions like diabetes, Hepatitis C, lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome
- Nerve damage in the head or neck
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
In some cases, people can make changes to address their symptoms, like switching to a different medication or giving up smoking. For other people, dry mouth is a condition they may have to cope with permanently. In this situation, it’s especially important to practice good oral hygiene to reduce the risk of serious consequences.
Effects on Your Health
Saliva serves many purposes for your oral health. It washes away pieces of food, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria to protect your teeth from cavities, helps break down food for digestion, and makes it easier to chew and swallow. When you aren’t getting enough saliva, it can cause a number of problems, including:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Mouth sores
- Yeast infection (thrush)
- Difficulty eating or speaking
These issues need to be addressed before they lead to problems like tooth loss or poor nutrition. Fortunately, there are many treatments for people suffering from xerostomia.
Some treatments for xerostomia require prescriptions, but many are over the counter. In many cases, there are easy steps you can take that require very little change to your daily routine but can make all the difference when it comes to the future of your health. The most common treatments include:
- Oral rinses designed to treat dry mouth
- Medication to stimulate saliva
- Sugar-free cough drops or gum
- Drinking plenty of water
- Artificial saliva substitutes
Sometimes, just treating symptoms isn’t enough. People living with extreme dry mouth have to take extra care to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which is common in people with xerostomia. These steps can include:
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Visits to the dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and monitoring of your dental health
- Regular rinses with a fluoride treatment
- Use of antibacterial or antifungal mouthwash
Your dentist may have additional recommendations based on your individual needs. Xerostomia can require you to take extra steps when it comes to your oral health. However, there are many ways you can change your routine to feel better and save yourself pain and more serious oral health concerns in the future.
Anxiety-Free Dental Care
LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS provides world class dental care in a calming, anxiety-free environment. If you suffer from dental problems caused by dry mouth, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.