Saliva is such a common part of everyday life, most take the clear, watery liquid in their mouth for granted. Some do not have this luxury because they cannot produce as much saliva as is normal. This is a condition called dry mouth, or xerostomia, and it has serious implications for your oral health. There are several causes for dry mouth, including certain medications, diseases, and medical treatments.
Symptoms, Causes, and Effects
Dry mouth can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral infections. Common symptoms include cracked lips, frequent thirst, a dry feeling in the mouth, burning sensations of the mouth and tongue, problems chewing, and bad breath. Over 400 different medications can cause dry mouth. These include drugs from simple cold medications to more serious medications for depression, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Many common diseases also cause dry mouth. Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypertension are just a few. Chemotherapy is also a cause.
For some, dry mouth may seem like a simple inconvenience. The truth is, the effects of dry mouth are more than a question of comfort. Saliva not only moistens your mouth, keeping you comfortable throughout the day, it also helps protect your teeth from cavities. The liquid washes away food particles and acids while you eat. Saliva also has anti-pathogen agents that work to regulate the harmful bacteria that cause cavities. Because saliva serves such an important purpose in keeping the mouth clean, those who experience a reduction in the production of saliva are more prone to gum disease and tooth decay.
Tips for Dry Mouth Relief
Here are a few tips for relieving symptoms of dry mouth and preventing the harmful oral health side effects of this condition.
- If you are taking medication, ask your doctor whether it may cause dry mouth. If so, ask your doctor to switch your medication.
- There are artificial saliva products on the market today. These are usually aerosol sprays or liquids you can squirt in the mouth. While real saliva is 99% water, it does contain certain chemicals that maintain your oral health. Artificial saliva includes chemicals that work in the same way. They do not contain, however, the enzymes and minerals found in your natural saliva that are used to aid digestion.
- Sip water throughout the day to help wash away food and neutralize acids.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages, alcohol, or smoke, as these habits only worsen the condition of dry mouth.
- One way to increase the natural saliva production of your mouth is to suck on sugarless candy or gum throughout the day.
- Stay away from salty or spicy foods. These only aggravate symptoms of pain or discomfort caused by dry mouth.
- Fluoride treatments can help strengthen the enamel of your teeth and prevent tooth decay, so they are of particular benefit to patients with xerostomia. At Calcagno Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer topical fluoride, and over-the-counter products available for use at home.
Schedule an Appointment
For answers to questions about dry mouth and how to treat the condition best, please schedule a consultation with Dr. Calcagno. Call our Rochester dental office at (507) 281-3659 today. We serve patients from Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and the surrounding communities.