Dry mouth, or Xerostomia, is a condition where little or no saliva is created in your mouth. This lack of saliva affects the bodies natural ability to break down food, swallow and cleanse your mouth.
Saliva is important because it helps to cancel out the acid that attacks your teeth. It helps to break down food while you are chewing, allowing you to swallow more easily. Saliva is also very important in fighting tooth decay in that it helps to fight the bacteria that form dental plaque and cause tooth decay and gum disease.
There are several symptoms to look for with dry mouth, such as:
- A dry mouth and lips.
- Saliva feels thick and sticky.
- A burning sensation in the mouth.
- Potential sensitivity to certain foods.
- Mouth may appear red and shiny.
- Bad breath
Although it is not possible to prevent dry mouth, it is important to try to determine the cause so the appropriate action can be taken to alleviate it. Some common causes are:
- Medicine - Over 400 types of medicine can cause dry mouth, especially heart, blood pressure and depression medications.
- Radiation and chemotherapy - Can cause damage to salivary glands and a thickening of saliva.
- Nerve damage in the head or neck from an injury as certain nerves carry message to the salivary glands to produce saliva.
- Diabetes, Lupus, HIV and certain auto-immune disorders.
- Hormone replacement therapy related to menopause.
Do's and Don'ts
The good news is there are steps to address dry mouth. Regular dental care is very important in this regard as dry mouth can be harmful to your teeth.
- Brush and floss daily.
- Sip water throughout the day.
- Use an alcohol-free fluoride rinse specifically designed to alleviate dry mouth or a fluoride gel before bedtime.
- Chew sugar free gum or candies to create saliva.
- Use a humidifier to keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods as they increase the risk of tooth decay.
- Limit caffeine intact.
- Avoid using over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants.
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
- Ask your doctor about medicines that aid in the production of saliva.
If you have questions or concerns about dry mouth, ask at your next check up for advice on how to care for your teeth and gums properly and discuss possible causes.