Why Having a Dry Mouth is more than Just a Nuisance

Dry mouth is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem among our adult patients.  Some people are unaware that their mouths feel dry, and others are aware, but do not consider it to be a problem.  It is a problem, and a serious one at that!

Dry mouth is a common side effect from many prescription medications, including blood pressure pills, antidepressants, and allergy medications.  What’s worse is that when someone takes multiple medications (which most people do), the dry mouth effect is exponential.

Dry mouth also results from dehydration, alcohol abuse, and use of tobacco products (including vaping!).

It Can Indicate a Health Problem

Dry mouth can also occur as a sign of some serious medical conditions.  If you do not take multiple prescription or over-the-counter medications, and you suffer from dry mouth, you should see your dentist or medical doctor to investigate the cause.  You might discover an underlying health problem.

The medical conditions that can cause dry mouth are listed here:

  • Diabetes
  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Vitamin B6 deficiency
  • Sjögren’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cystic fibrosis

It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Teeth and Gums

The biggest reason your dentist worries about dry mouth is that it has disastrous effects on the teeth and gums.  Saliva plays many important roles in the mouth, including fighting bacteria and neutralizing acid.  When saliva is not present in adequate quantities, bacteria begin overpopulating, and the pH in the mouth drops.

Excessive bacterial growth in the mouth puts you at a high risk for the dental diseases caused by those bacteria, namely cavities and gum disease.  A patient with dry mouth has to work much harder to prevent cavities and gum disease than someone with a healthy amount of saliva.  A dry mouth creates the need for intense dental intervention and diligent home care to prevent these disastrous effects.

It Makes Your More At-Risk for Painful Mouth Sores

Another important role of saliva is lubrication of the inside of the mouth.  The interior of the cheeks and lips should not “stick” to the teeth.  There should be a thin film of saliva separating the soft tissues (called mucosa) from the teeth at all times.  In a severely dry mouth, there is no separation, and there is dangerous friction.

The friction produced by a lack of saliva places people at a very high risk for biting the lips, cheeks and tongue.  It also predisposes you to mouth sores and ulcers. Without the soothing effect of saliva, these ulcers are more painful in patients with dry mouth.

How to Manage Dry Mouth

The first, and most important, step to take in managing dry mouth is recruiting the help of your dentist.  Do not wait until you have already developed dental problems!  Let us help you prevent them.  Dr. Chowning and our dental hygienists have valuable tools at their disposal to help you in the fight against dry mouth.  Follow their preventive recommendations!

Use over-the-counter products to counteract the symptoms and results of dry mouth.  Biotene brand makes an entire line of oral care products for patients with dry mouth.  We particularly like the dry mouth gel, which you can use to lubricate the inside of your mouth throughout the day.  Their toothpaste and mouthwash are gentle to the sensitive tissues in a dry mouth.

Another great over-the-counter product for dry mouth is XyliMelts.  These are small “stickers” you place on the roof of your mouth before bedtime.  They slowly release xylitol (a natural sweetener that does not harm your teeth) throughout the night, causing your body to produce saliva.

Stay hydrated, and avoid foods and drinks that lead to dehydration.  This means you should avoid sodas, caffeine, alcohol, high-sugar foods, and highly-salted foods.  Drink plenty of flat (non-sparkling) water!  Make sure that any other beverages you choose are sugar-free, since dry mouth patients also have an extremely high risk for cavities.

Between meals, chew sugar-free gum to stimulate the natural production of saliva.  A tart or strong mint flavor will cause your salivary glands to kick in, and the chewing action produces more saliva than simply sucking on a mint.  Our favorite is Ice Cubes gum, which is available at most grocery store checkout areas.

More Questions about Dry Mouth?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning or our dental hygienists.  We can answer any of your questions, assess your current situation and make personalized recommendations for your specific needs.

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