Dry mouth (or xerostomia) is a condition that results from reduced saliva production and has become an increasing problem among adults and senior citizens. Saliva is vital to everyday processes, such as tasting, swallowing, speech and digestion. Saliva also helps defend against tooth decay, as well as bacterial, fungal & viral infections.
What are the causes of Dry Mouth?
Many commonly prescribed medications can cause a decrease in salivary function. These medications include antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, anti-inflammatories, diuretics, sedatives and narcotics. Medications are the cause of approximately 90% of dry mouth cases. Dry mouth can also be a result of some medical conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, lupus, kidney disease, stress, anxiety, depression, nutritional deficiency or dysfunctions of the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS. Certain cancer treatments can alter the production and composition of saliva and the salivary glands, resulting in dry mouth.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Dry Mouth?
- Increased need to sip or drink fluids or excessive thirst
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Burning or sore sensation in the mouth
- Diminished or altered sense of taste
- Increased susceptibility to oral infections
- Sleep interruptions due to thirst
- Tooth decay
- Stale or bad breath
What are some ways to help manage Dry Mouth?
- Sip cool water throughout the day. Let ice chips melt in your mouth (don’t chew ice). Hydrate regularly and adequately.
- It is extremely important to have meticulous home care with regular brushing & flossing.
- See your Dentist regularly. People with dry mouth tend to be more prone to cavities, gum disease and oral yeast infections. Early diagnosis leads to improved management and fewer side effects.
- A neutral Sodium Fluoride Prescription and/or trays help minimize risk of decay and strengthen tooth structures.
- Drink milk with meals. Milk has moisturizing properties which can assist in swallowing.
- Use a cool air humidifier in the bedroom. Start the humidifier an hour or two before bedtime and let it run through the night.
- Use sugar-free candy, gum and beverages. Look for products that contain Xylitol (a sweetener that does not cause cavities). Chewing gum will stimulate saliva production.
- Overuse of acidic candies & foods can cause mouth sores.
- Restrict caffeine intake. Caffeine is a major cause of dry mouth
- For dry lips, use Hydrous Lanolin or Blistex Herbal Answer during the day and especially at bedtime. Avoid petroleum products as they actually dry the lips over time.
- Avoid alcohol & alcohol-containing mouthwashes. Alcohol has a drying effect & can irritate the tissues.
- Avoid dry or salty foods.
- Avoid smoking.
- If possible, sleep on your side in order to reduce open mouth breathing.
Useful Commercial Products: Unfortunately, we’re still treating the symptoms of dry mouth on a temporary basis and don’t have a long term solution to the problem. The effects or benefits of each product vary among individuals, so if you aren’t seeing an improvement from one product, feel free to try something different. These products can be used as often as needed and do not react or interfere with other prescriptions. They also do not have adverse side-effects when used as directed.
The products listed below are available without a prescription.
Tablets: Xylimelts – Long lasting oral adhesive discs temporarily relieve dry mouth, even while sleeping
Scandinavian Formulas Salivasure Lozenges – To stimulate natural saliva flow, dissolve one tablet slowly under tongue up to every hour as needed. Will not cause cavities or sore mouth. Easy to carry; mild mint flavor; no drug interactions.
Gum: Biotene Dry Mouth Gum – Contains Xylitol (helps prevent decay). Contains antibacterial enzymes normally found in saliva. Gel: Biotene or Oral Balance (1.5 oz. tube) – Moisturizing water-based gel, especially useful at night. Spread on tissues and under dentures as needed for long-lasting effects.
Toothpaste: Biotene Toothpaste (4.5 oz. tube) – Mild tasting, gently cleansing, detergent-free toothpaste. Contains fluoride. Available in a gel formulation.
Mouthwash: Biotene – Alcohol-free. Contains Xylitol (helps prevent decay). Contains antibacterial enzymes normally found in saliva.
Saliva Substitute Liquid: Many brands are commercially available (Mouth Kote, Neutra Sal). While they are well received by patients, benefits can be short-lived compared to other products.
Additional Information & Web Resources on Dry Mouth www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/DryMouth/DryMouth.htm www.mayoclinic.com/health/dry-mouth/HA00034 www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=D&iid=187&aid=1235 www.oralcancerfoundation.org/dental/xerostomia.htm
(Excerpts from The American Dental Association, The Academy of General Dentistry and Mayo Clinic websites)