Dry Mouth Affects Oral Health

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth, also know as xerostomia, occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth.  Saliva is needed to help with chewing function, digesting food, moistening our mouth, and cleaning our mouths. Saliva also plays a role in controlling bacteria and fungi present in the mouth, which helps to prevent infections.

What are the effects of dry mouth?

Dry mouth does not have to be a normal part of the aging process.  If you experience symptoms frequently, see your dentist or doctor.

Effects of dry mouth include:

  • Difficulties with chewing, tasting, chewing, speaking and swallowing function
  • Increases your risk of dental decay
  • Increases your risk of infections in the mouth
  • A dry and sticky sensation in the mouth
  • Feeling thirsty frequently
  • Cracked lips and sores in the mouth
  • Feeling of having a dry throat
  • Bad Breath
  • A raw, dry, red tongue

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth is caused when the salivary glands in your mouth do not produce saliva normally.  Reasons why the glands may not produce saliva properly include:

  • Medication side effects.  Many medicines can affect the salivary glands’ ability to produce saliva.
  • Radiation Treatment. If the salivary glands are exposed to radiation during treatment of cancer, they can become damaged.
  • Some Diseases. Certain diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, AIDS, may cause dry mouth.
  • Damaged Nerves. Nerve damage to the head or neck region can also affect the glands’ ability.
  • Chemotherapy Drugs. Cancer treating drugs can result in thicker saliva, causing dry mouth.
  • Dehydration. Conditions such as excessive sweating. vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can lead to dry mouth.

Why is treating dry mouth important?

If left untreated, a host of issues which include, an increased risk of gum disease, cavities, and infections.  Wearing dentures is also more challenging when your mouth is dry.

How is dry mouth treated?

If your symptoms occurred with taking a new medication, see your doctor. They may switch medications or adjust the dosage to help.  Your dentist or doctor may also prescribe an oral product to help with mouth moisture.

Try these tips to help with your symptoms:

– Chew sugar-free gum.
– Drink lots of water often to stay hydrated
– Use a vaporizer to add moisture to your rooms.
– Use an artificial saliva substitute that you can find over the counter.

 

Resources:

Mouth Healthy
NIDCR

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