What to Do About Dry Mouth

A lack of saliva leads to dry mouth, which can feel like a desert.

Sometimes spit is a good thing!

Your mouth is not supposed to be a dry place. Our mouth, teeth and gums are healthiest when our ability to make saliva is at its best. Saliva, made up of water and many other critical substances, including the calcium that keeps your enamel strong, has lubricating, cleansing, anti-microbial and digestive functions. It also helps us to speak clearly and improves our sense of taste. Did you know all that was going on without any effort on your part?

But what if your mouth suffers from dryness, or ‘xerostomia’ (zeer-oh-stomia)? Xerostomia, also called “dry mouth,” can be uncomfortable, making it seem like your mouth is constantly parched. It can also lead to cavities, gum disease, and the dreaded halitosis, simply known as “bad breath.”

If you’ve never had dry mouth before, you’ll most likely be the first to notice if it develops. A prompt dental visit is in store. An extra-oral and intra-oral examination along with palpation of the salivary glands will be done to rule out tenderness, firmness, or enlargement of your salivary glands and ducts. You’ll also be asked about any changes in your medications (prescription and over-the-counter).

Drugs Known to Cause Xerostomia

The medications most commonly associated with dry mouth are:

  • antihypertensive (high blood pressure pills)
  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines (allergy pills)
  • antiemetics (pills for nausea)
  • antipsychotics
  • decongestants
  • diuretics (“water pills”)
  • certain pain medications.

If you’re taking a combination of medications, you have an increased chance of suffering from xerostomia as a side effect.

Dealing with Dry Mouth

Besides trying to suck on ice all day and constantly drinking fluids, can you solve your dry mouth? Over-the-counter synthetic saliva substitutes can alleviate the issue. Since your dry mouth can be a side effect from medication, it might not be wise to risk further complications from more medications with more side effects. That’s why simple saliva substitutes are preferred, as these also help to eliminate the dental caries (cavities) that can be a result of xerostomia. We can help you speak with your doctor about changing medications, if your prescription is causing the problem, and also investigate possible health connections causing your dry mouth. In more severe cases, however, a prescription-strength medication for xerostomia is recommended.

To prevent cavities while suffering from dry mouth, brush after each and every meal with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily as if your life depends on it. If you can’t brush, chew sugar-free gum after meals. It helps remove the food bits and also stimulates saliva production. If you can’t brush and gum chewing is not an option, at the very least rinse your mouth out with water after eating. Stay away from sugary carbonated drinks (no Mountain Dew Mouth for you). As for the sticky foods and candies, if you cannot brush after eating it may be better to just say no. Reduce your caffeine intake and drink lots of plain water throughout the day. If your mouth feels dry, give it a swish of refreshing water to keep things moist.

Why Chewing Gum is Your Friend

Getting back to gum chewing, have you heard the news about xylitol? It may sound bad for you, but actually it is a natural substance extracted from plants. Years of research has proven that gum containing xylitol is good for your teeth, inducing and increasing essential saliva production. Carry it with you in your car and have some handy at work. If you promise not to pop it in public and refuse to leave it on the sidewalk or attached to furniture, gum chewing is great for you and your dental health.

Don’t Ignore Xerostomia!

While you may have thought of dry mouth as just an annoyance, xerostomia can cause long-term problems if it goes on unchecked. Make an appointment right away at Carmichael’s Marconi Dental Group! Our dentists will figure out what’s causing that cotton feeling in your mouth, talk about your home dental care and an in-office customized cleaning schedule. We’ll even teach you how to pronounce xerostomia!


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Comments (2)

One of the side effects of using the tips in this post may include weight loss! Less carbs and sugar is great for the body too!

As a rule of thumb if you are taking more than 1 prescription drug a day, most likely you are suffering from reduced salivary flow. It is always easier to prevent dental decay at the onset of the xerostomia rather then waiting too long. If you notice any changes in your salivary flow come in so we can do an through examination and make sure we stay ahead of the problem.

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