If you’re having an occasional or persistent dry mouth, there can be many possible causes. The good news is, there are plenty of possible solutions available as well. Dry mouth, which is known clinically as xerostomia, is a condition in which the salivary glands in your mouth aren’t producing enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. In some cases, dry mouth can be a side effect of the radiation used in cancer treatment, but it can also be caused by issues related to aging or even due to certain medications. As for your dental health, saliva plays a critical role in creating a healthy environment inside your mouth.
Saliva helps in multiple ways
It prevents tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria. Saliva also helps to limit bacterial growth and plays a key role in washing away food particles. Your ability to taste and chew food thoroughly and easily is also affected by the amount saliva in your mouth. Lower levels of saliva and dry mouth can be a nuisance but can also become more serious if it begins to affect the health of your teeth and gums.
- Some of the symptoms of dry mouth include:
- dryness or a feeling of stickiness in your mouth
- saliva that seems thick and stringy
- bad breath
- difficulty chewing, speaking or swallowing
- dry or sore throat and hoarseness
- dry or grooved tongue
- a changed sense of taste
- problems wearing dentures
If your dry mouth becomes persistent or is not easily relieved, it may be time to talk to your doctor to figure out what may be causing it. As mentioned, medications, aging, and radiation therapy are common causes of dry mouth. Others include nerve damage, tobacco and alcohol use, and recreational drug use such as methamphetamine and cannabis.
Steps you can take to reduce your symptoms
First, talk to your doctor to see if any of your medications are the culprit. It’s possible your doctor may adjust your dosage or even switch you to a different medication. There are also certain products, both available as prescription and over the counter that can help alleviate dry mouth. A few include:
- specialized mouth rinses
- artificial saliva
- oral moisturizers
- mouthwashes designed for dry mouth which have xylitol, such as Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse or Act Dry Mouth Mouthwash
- Prescription medications that stimulate saliva, such as pilocarpine or cevimeline
- To protect against possible cavities as a result of dry mouth, your dentist may fit you for fluoride trays. This is something you’ll fill with fluoride and wear over your teeth at night. Your dentist may also recommend chlorhexidine rinse to also help control cavities.
There are also a few ways to help alleviate the dryness at home. These include sipping water or sugar-free drinks, chewing sugar-free gum, over the counter saliva substitutes. It’s important to also breathe through your nose and add moisture to the air at night with a humidifier. You also want to try to avoid alcohol and caffeine in excess and to buy mouthwash that’s alcohol-free.
An important step is to also see your dentist at least twice a year to avoid plaque buildup and to ensure your oral health is sound. If you’re looking for a dentist, consider scheduling an appointment with us. We’re happy to work with you to ensure a lifetime of good oral health.