Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common condition that prevents adequate levels of saliva from being produced. It can be caused by many factors, from serious medical conditions to certain medications. Untreated dry mouth can have a significant impact on your oral health. Fortunately, though, this condition is highly treatable regardless of cause.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
At one time or another, everyone has needed to drink some water before a speaking engagement or an important exam. Transient dry mouth, often caused by anxiety, leaves an uncomfortable, sticky feeling in the mouth that generally passes when the anxiety subsides.
Chronic dry mouth can cause some very uncomfortable and long-lasting symptoms. Chronic thirst, chapped lips, a raw tongue, chronic hoarseness, trouble swallowing, a burning sensation in the mouth or throat, and bad breath are all common symptoms of chronic dry mouth.
Causes of Dry Mouth
After anxiety, medication is one of the most common causes of dry mouth. In fact, it is a known side effect of some of the most popular remedies for gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, allergies and colds, asthma, depression and anxiety, obesity, psychiatric conditions, and numerous other illnesses. Tell your dentist if you take any medications, as this can make diagnosis far simpler.
Dry mouth is also a known side effect of certain medical conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and HIV/AIDS. It is commonly associated with chemotherapy and radiation, and it can even be affiliated with wearing dentures.
Short-term dry mouth may be caused by dehydration. If you have a fever, excess sweating, burns, or ongoing vomiting, transient dry mouth may occur.
Those who breathe through their mouths, as well as smokers and chewing tobacco users, are at increased risk for dry mouth. These activities cause saliva to evaporate and irritate the tissues of the mouth and throat.
Oral Health Concerns from Dry Mouth
Saliva serves as the first line of defense in protecting oral health. It neutralizes acids, begins the digestive process, and rinses bacteria and food debris from the mouth. Over time, chronic dry mouth can change the balance of bacteria in your mouth, increasing your risks for tooth decay and gum disease, as well as for oral infections such as thrush. Wearing dentures can also be challenging with chronic dry mouth.
Treating Dry Mouth
Fortunately, dry mouth responds well to a mix of prescription medications and lifestyle changes. If your dry mouth is caused by a medication or health condition, your doctor should be involved as well. You may be able to more aggressively treat an underlying illness or change medications.
Focus on trying to stimulate as much saliva production as possible. Sip water throughout the day and chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free hard candy. Use a vaporizer or humidifier to raise the humidity level in your bedroom. Be sure to breathe through your nose. Reduce damage to your teeth and gums by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
Prescription medications can help stimulate saliva production. We can also prescribe an oral rinse to increase the moisture level in your mouth.