We've all experienced dry mouth: that sticky, unpleasant feeling when there's not enough moisture in the mouth. For many people, though, dry mouth is a chronic problem that besides the discomfort it causes can also lead to an increased risk of dental disease.
Also known as xerostomia, chronic dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth don't produce enough saliva. This could be caused by a systemic condition like Parkinson's disease, an autoimmune disorder or damage to the salivary glands by cancer radiation or chemotherapy treatment. The most common cause, though, are medications with dry mouth side effects.
This lack of sufficient saliva creates an environment conducive to diseases like tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease. That's because saliva helps deter bacterial growth and neutralizes mouth acid, prime factors in the development of these two diseases.
If you're showing symptoms of chronic dry mouth, you should see your dentist for an examination. If it appears to be related to medications you're taking, you can speak with your prescribing doctor about alternatives without the dry mouth side effects. Changing to a different medication that doesn't compromise your main health condition could ease dry mouth symptoms.
There are also measures you can take to help moisten your mouth or boost your saliva. For one, start drinking more water—saliva production depends on an adequate fluid supply available in the body. It's also important that you drink water before and after you take oral medications, which could help diminish drug-related dry mouth symptoms.
There are also products available you can use to stimulate saliva production. One of these is xylitol, an alcohol-based sweetener found in gums or mints: Xylitol not only boosts saliva flow, it also inhibits the growth of disease-causing oral bacteria. Also, limit your consumption of sugary or acidic foods and beverages that contribute to mouth dryness.
Dry mouth is a problem that not only affects your quality of life but your future dental health too. Don't put off getting the help you need to alleviate this irritable condition.
If you would like more information on the causes and remedies for dry mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dry Mouth.”