As doctors, we strive on providing our patients with on-going, quality, and effective treatments for all health-related issues, but not many really tackle issues such as “dry mouth,” or xerostomia. Dry mouth specialists don’t exist, but dentists, periodontists, and ENT specialists do — and as a dentist with expertise in all oral health, your xerostomia issue can be thoroughly evaluated and handled. Knowing and understanding the causes and how oral health really works helps me provide my patients with the proper dry mouth treatment they need to help them live a burden-free life or one that doesn’t get affected by xerostomia. So, why do you have dry mouth?
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Many factors contribute to someone developing xerostomia, which is essentially dry mouth brought on by a decrease in levels of saliva. Though often being symptomatic of underlying diseases or other medical conditions, it also finds its root in various side-effects as well as factors such as weather, sleeping habits, and more.
Amongst these, one of the most common causes comes from prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications such as antidepressants, decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics, and many, many more. Of these remedies, the urological meds rank highest in the probability of causing dry mouth to those taking the drug. However, meds are just one part of the equation. There are health factors, illnesses, and treatments that may cause dry mouth. These range from:
- radiation therapy for head and neck cancers
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- infection or disease of the salivary gland
- salivary gland removal
- auto-immune disease
- eating disorders
Several cases of dry mouth are associated with dehydration, pregnancy, menopause and emotional stress. In the case of pregnancy, hormonal changes may cause such a reaction, along with gingivitis and other oral issues like thrush. Habitual causes ranging from mouth breathing, sleeping with your mouth open, and smoking can aggravate this oral condition even more.
Why Is Saliva So Important To Us?
Saliva‘s importance lies in what it does and what it brings to your body. A natural mouth lubricant, so to speak, it is what helps you chew, taste, or intake food. Saliva also plays a role in dental health, preventing tooth decay. It coats all the soft tissue in the moth, bathes the teeth to help prevent cavities and infections, and contains the substances needed to enable your body to digest and ingest food.
With the salivary production compromised, an individual will be far more prone to yeast infections (or thrush in this case), periodontal disease, gingivitis, burning sensations in the mouth, acids, dental deterioration and difficulty swallowing or ingesting food, which can result in choking. When a mouth is dry and gums are inflamed as a result, germs can form and the accumulation can result in bad breath, or halitosis if we’re being technical. Thankfully, we also offer solutions to this.
What Can I Do To Prevent Dry Mouth?
Dehydration shouldn’t be taken lightly, as not only being a leading cause in xerostomia but also doubles as a symptom for many medical conditions. Though it’s a little on the nose, for starters, increasing your water consumption can go a long way in helping you alleviate the symptoms of xerostomia. Other times, alternative saliva substitutes may be brought in to keep the soft tissues of your mouth lubricated and moist, such as xylitol or mouth spray. Eliminating some of the more damaging liquids from daily consumption helps, too. Things like learning to avoid alcohol (including mouthwash that contains alcohol), caffeine (coffee, sodas), carbonated drinks or sparkling waters will help you in the prevention of another dry mouth episode. Additionally, there exists sugar-free gum for dry mouth and even sour candies that can aid in the stimulation of saliva which is very helpful.
If you do suffer from dry mouth, dentists will often recommend fluoride rinses, different types of toothpaste or trays to help prevent any developing cavities and gum disease that ensue. Currently, on the market are several lines of products specifically designed to help treat individuals with a chronically dry mouth. One line, in particular, is Biotene, whose current products that range from gums and toothpaste to alcohol-free mouthwash, are designed to stimulate your salivary flow when the glands are compromised. Your dentist’s recommendations will vary on a case-by-case basis, however.