Dry Mouth: Causes, Risks and Management
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with the feeling that your mouth is as dry as the Sahara Desert? Sadly, this is not overly uncommon, (especially if you’ve enjoyed some alcohol the previous night) and can be quite uncomfortable. This run of the mill “dry mouth” is due to dehydration, and is easily relieved by….you guessed it…..drinking water!
True xerostomia (the fancy term for dry mouth) is a different ball game. This is due to a decrease in your saliva flow and can have a serious impact on your oral health. There are several possible causes of dry mouth. These include, but are not limited to,
- Some medications
- Medical conditions eg Sjogren’s Syndrome, diabetes
- Radiation therapy in the head or neck region
- Neurological damage to the nerves controlling the salivary glands.
When your saliva dries up, this usually produces discomfort and thirst. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, mouth ulcers and a reduced sense of taste. A prolonged decrease in saliva can also have a devastating effect on your teeth and gums. Saliva is one of those things that we usually don’t appreciate until it’s gone. Without it, there’s no lubrication for your delicate oral tissues and there’s no protection for your teeth. (Think of your saliva as a constant bath that helps to keep your teeth clean). People with reduced salivary flow have a hugely increased risk of developing dental caries/decay.
On the bright side, there are things you can do to help alleviate your dry mouth. If you suffer from this condition, it may help to consider the following…
- Ask your doctor if any alterations could be made to medications to help reduce this side effect.
- Chewing sugar free gum can help to stimulate saliva flow in glands that still work but are being a little lazy.
- Be sure to stay well hydrated.
- Avoid dehydrating drinks such as caffeine and soft drinks (avoid the latter anyway!)
- Avoid tobacco.
- Artificial salivary replacements are available from pharmacies. A popular brand is “Biotene”, which makes an effective mouthrinse and mouth spray that many of our patients have found to be helpful.
The other way to combat dry mouth is to make up for the decrease in saliva by being fastidious with your oral hygiene (what a shock, the dentist suggests you should clean your teeth more!) Remember to always brush your teeth at least twice per day (with a soft brush), floss every day, avoid sugary foods/drinks and visit your friendly neighbourhood dentist every 6 months for a checkup and a clean.
If you would like any further information on xerostomia / dry mouth, please don’t hesitate to call us on 36328100 or email us on [email protected]