What is dry mouth and why is it a concern?
Saliva is one of the most important protective mechanisms of the teeth – it balances the pH in the mouth and supports the remineralization of teeth. Without saliva, teeth would simply dissolve.
Due to saliva’s protective functions, a lack of saliva (dry mouth) or, more technically, xerostomia, is a major risk factor for dental disease. Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health issues become much more common.
How do I know if I have dry mouth?
Everyone, at some point in his or her life, suffers from dry mouth. It occurs in women more often than in men, is more prevalent among older adults than in young or middle-aged individuals and is usually more severe during sleep. It can be caused by stress, poor diet, age, heredity, disease, and commonly used medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect.
You may be a candidate for dry mouth therapy if you experience any of the symptoms below occasionally or more often during the day:
- My mouth feels dry
- I notice a lack of saliva in my mouth
- I get up at night to drink
- My mouth feels dry when eating a meal
- I have difficulties swallowing certain foods
- I sip liquids to aid in swallowing foods
- I suck on sweets or cough drops to relieve dry mouth
- My throat feels dry
- My mouth becomes dry when speaking
- I regularly use something to keep my mouth moist
What can I do to treat dry mouth?
There are a number of steps you can take to help minimize dry mouth, both at home and professionally:
- Sip water or sugarless drinks often and during meals
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas
- Avoid tobacco or alcohol, which dry out the mouth
- Minimize spicy or salty foods, which may cause pain in a dry mouth
- Avoid sugar and acidic foods
- Use a humidifier at night
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow, citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies are good choices
- Take good care of your teeth and gums by brushing twice a day and floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day to remove dental plaque and food debris from in between teeth where your tooth brush cannot reach
- Obtain a recommendation or prescription for oral care products that assist in moisturizing the mouth and preventing cavities, such as Carifree
- See your dentist for regular professional cleanings