Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health

Woman Drinking Water

Saliva plays an essential role in keeping the mouth moist, cleaning debris from the teeth, and aiding in the digestive process. When you fail to produce enough saliva, your mouth can start to feel sticky and uncomfortable. The following looks at the symptoms and causes of dry mouth as well as how you can keep your mouth moist and healthy.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

In addition to being uncomfortable and making you thirsty, dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can also cause:

  • Cracked lips
  • Sores at the corners of the mouth
  • A red, raw tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarseness or a sore throat
  • Burning or tingling of the tongue
  • Difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are a frequent cause of dry mouth. This includes drugs used to treat:

  • Allergies
  • Pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Incontinence
  • Asthma
  • Parkinson’s disease

Dry mouth can also be a symptom of a number of different medical conditions and diseases, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Mumps
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypertension

Dehydration caused by excessive sweating, burns, fever, vomiting, or diarrhea can also lead to dry mouth.

Certain medical treatments can damage salivary glands and reduce the amount of saliva produced. This can include radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer, surgery that causes nerve damage affecting the head and neck, and surgical removal of the salivary glands due to cancer.

The symptoms of dry mouth can be exacerbated by lifestyle habits, including chewing tobacco and smoking.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Dry Mouth

A chronic dry mouth is more than just a minor annoyance. It can have a significant impact on your overall oral health. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, dry mouth can allow bacteria and fungi to develop in the mouth, which can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and infections such as thrush. A dry mouth can also affect the fit and comfort of your dentures.

Tips for Increasing Saliva Production

There are simple steps that you can take to try to increase the flow of saliva.

  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Chew a piece of sugar-free gum or suck on a piece of sugar-free candy.
  • Try to avoid mouth-breathing. You should consult a doctor if you have allergies or other conditions that make it difficult to breathe through your nose.
  • Add moisture to the air by using a vaporizer, especially at night when you are more likely to mouth breathe.
  • Use an over-the-counter rinse, such as Biotene, to moisturize your mouth.
  • Avoid commercial mouthwashes that contain peroxide or alcohol that can worsen symptoms.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, which can lead to dehydration and exacerbate symptoms.
  • Since a dry mouth makes you more prone to cavities, it is important to use a fluoride toothpaste and rinse and to see your dentist regularly for a checkup.

Treatments for Dry Mouth

If you suspect that your dry mouth is caused by a medication, you should consult your physician. The doctor may be able to switch medications or adjust the dosage. If over-the-counter remedies do not improve your symptoms, your doctor or dentist may be able to prescribe oral rinses to help moisturize your mouth. In extreme cases, a medication called pilocarpine may be used to stimulate saliva production. Cevimeline is another drug specifically approved to help combat dry mouth associated with an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome.

Hinsdale Dental has been dedicated to improving the oral health of residents of Hinsdale and the surrounding areas for the past 60 years. We are proud to offer a wide range of preventative, cosmetic, and restorative dental services in a caring and comfortable atmosphere. If you are suffering from dry mouth or another dental concern, contact us today to arrange a consultation.

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