Dry Mouth and Saliva
Dry mouth, sometimes referred to as xerostomia, is a condition that can range from a mildly annoying sense of dryness to being severely uncomfortable and reducing the quality of life. Dry mouth may reduce the enjoyment of food, distort taste, make speech difficult and can lead to rapid teeth decay.
The role of saliva is to lubricate the mouth, wash away food from the teeth and constantly coat tooth enamel with strengthening minerals. Saliva neutralizes food acids, protecting the teeth and aiding the digestive process by breaking down food, making it easier to swallow.
Healthy saliva is thin, and free flowing. Saliva is constantly being produced by the salivary glands. It increases with the smell and thought of food and chewing. Saliva flow naturally reduces at night time while we are sleeping.
When the saliva flow is reduced and dry mouth occurs you may experience:
- dryness or feeling of stickiness in your mouth or thick, bubbly saliva
- a feeling of thirst or bad breath or a dry or grooved tongue
- difficulty chewing, speaking or swallowing
- dry cracked lips or bad breath
- a change in taste sensation (some people often say food tastes like cardboard).
What causes Dry Mouth
Dry mouth may occur for different reasons, but the most common is as a side effect of medications. Usually the medications are vital to your overall health, so dry mouth symptoms need to be managed. Please mention the dry mouth to your Doctor, as well as your Dentist.
Common medications that can cause dry mouth include antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure, pain relief, diuretics (fluid tablets) and muscle relaxants.
Medical conditions that can cause dry mouth include auto immune conditions, Lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, Diabetes, stroke, oral thrush, HIV/Aids and Alzheimer’s disease. People who have chemotherapy and especially radiation to the head and neck will suffer from dry mouth as the salivary glands are affected. Sometimes the salivary glands become blocked or infected reducing saliva flow. Snoring and dehydration may result in dry mouth.
Lifestyle choices affect saliva production – excessive caffeine, alcohol and smoking increase dry mouth symptoms, as will using methamphetamine and marijuana.
Many older people suffer dry mouth due to health complications and resulting medications.
Dry Mouth and Dental Decay
The reason we may ask if you are experiencing dry mouth, or encourage you to let us know, is that left unmanaged dry mouth can result in a rapid increase in dental decay. Holes in teeth may form in places not as easily detected such as root surfaces or under the gum, and any holes may grow quickly.
Certain toothpastes or products may be recommended, diligent oral hygiene advised, more regular hygiene appointments proposed or additional x-rays arranged to diagnose any decay early before it can spread. In the case of dry mouth, prevention is crucial.
Oral hygiene should be meticulous – the plaque is often stickier and more difficult to remove, and food becomes trapped easily, particularly if you wear dentures or have gaps between your teeth. A high fluoride toothpaste gives more tooth protection, as will brushing more frequently and using both floss and interproximal brushes. Other products, saliva substitutes and mouth rinses are also available to improve the slipperiness of your mouth, making day to day life more comfortable and reducing the likelihood tooth decay.
If you experience a dry mouth, it is important to avoid acidic drinks (juices, energy drinks, softdrink) and sucking of sugar or honey sweetened lozenges (eg butter menthols) to soothe your mouth and throat. You will not have enough saliva to clear the decay causing nt dehydration. sugar and acid from your mouth. Frequent sips of water help lubricate the mouth and prevent decay.
If you are interested in learning about gum recession prevention and treatment, please contact any of our friendly Sunshine Coast and North Lakes dental practices in Caloundra, Kawana, Maroochydore, Bli Bli, North Lakes and Baringa book on-line or use the button.