For some people, dry mouth can be more than just a nuisance – it can seriously affect their oral health. That slightly sticky feeling can spell a mouthful of cavities if you’re not careful. Though it’s not unusual to experience dry mouth from time to time, chronic sufferers should not ignore the problem. To understand the dangers of dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, you need to realize the important role that saliva plays in thwarting bacterial growth and neutralizing acids. Saliva washes away food particles, helping prevent tooth decay. It also aids in swallowing and food digestion before it reaches the stomach.
Xerostomia is commonly diagnosed by dentists, who can easily detect a major lack of saliva and its effects on teeth and gums. If you’re one of the estimated 44 million Americans who suffer from persistent dry mouth, there are a few simple measures you can take to fight the problem.
Dry mouth causes & symptoms
Saliva production can vary from person to person, but chronic dry mouth can stem from a number of causes, including:
- Decongestants and antihistamine medications as well as drugs for high blood pressure, depression and incontinence can lead to chronic dry mouth.
- Chemotherapy and radiation can damage salivary glands, leading to reduced saliva production.
- Smoking and chewing tobacco can induce dry mouth symptoms.
- Nerve damage caused by injury or surgery can lead to dry mouth
- Certain conditions such as diabetes, HIV, cancer of the salivary glands, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Alzheimers disease and Parkinson’s disease can decrease saliva production.
- Snoring/ Sleep apnea – people who sleep with their mouths open may be more susceptible to dry mouth symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Dryness in the mouth or throat
- Bad breath
- Thick and stringy saliva
- Cracked lips and split skin
- Dry tongue
- Infections or sores in the mouth
- Altered sense of taste
- Difficulties with chewing and swallowing
- Increased tooth decay
- Gum redness and irritation
- Gum disease
How to treat dry mouth symptoms
At Chelsea Dental Aesthetics, we often recommend the following steps to prevent or reverse dry mouth symptoms that can have a severe impact on your oral health.
- Take green tea supplements
- Cut out soda, sports drinks and sugary foods
- Avoid caffeinated drinks that further dry out the mouth
- Take frequent drinks of cold water
- Try saliva stimulants like sugar-free gum or sugar-free candies
- Use a humidifier at night
- Use alcohol-free mouth rinses
- Ask your doctor about switching medications if a pharmaceutical is causing symptoms
Tooth decay may be in advanced stages by the time dry mouth is properly diagnosed. In situations like these, Dr. David Blaustein will evaluate the causes and offer solutions to remove decay and restore oral health. Porcelain crowns are an effective option for teeth that are too damaged for fillings, and scaling and root planing are non-surgical options to restore periodontal health.
Dr. Blaustein offers a number of therapies for dry mouth treatment in his midtown Manhattan office. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call Chelsea Dental Aesthetics at 347.774.4015.
- Mayo Clinic, Dry Mouth http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-mouth/basics/definition/con-20035499
- Healthline, Dry Mouth: The ‘Minor’ Side Effect That Can Cause Major Problems http://www.healthline.com/health-blogs/bipolar-bites/dry-mouth-minor-side-effect-can-cause-major-problems