If you have ever woken up in the morning with a little pool of drool on your pillow, don’t be embarrassed, be thankful! Saliva production signifies a happy and healthy mouth. Conversely, not producing enough saliva can be potentially harmful to your health.
Xerostomia is commonly known as dry mouth and is characterized by a lack of saliva production. It’s almost amusing to hear that something as simple as a dry mouth can be a reason to worry. But when you look intently at the benefits of saliva, you begin to understand the vital role it plays in our overall health.
What Is Xerostomia?
Do you consistently wake up with a tongue that feels rougher than sandpaper? Do you feel like you have to constantly drink water to feel that your mouth is comfortably lubricated? You could be one of many individuals suffering from xerostomia.
Xerostomia is a fairly common condition that grows ever more common in older people. While not everyone who wakes up with a dry mouth and sore throat necessarily has xerostomia, it is estimated that nearly one in five older adults suffers from an unusually dry mouth!
Symptoms of Xerostomia
Just having a dry mouth does not mean you have xerostomia. However, if you’re noticing a combination of the following, it might be a good idea to find out about xerostomia treatments:
- Having a dry or sticky mouth.
- Thick and stringy saliva.
- Bad breath.
- Difficulty chewing, talking, and swallowing.
- Dry tongue.
- Mouth sores.
- A hoarse, sore, or dry throat.
- A slight change in taste or smell.
- Issues wearing common dental appliances such as dentures.
Any one of these symptoms is sure to feel inconvenient. It’s not fun trying to chat with your neighbors if you are having trouble moving your mouth, and having a constant itch to cough doesn’t bode well if you’re trying to make it through a concert or other important program.
But the symptoms aren’t as uncomfortable as the long-term problems that can come from having a persistently dry mouth. The detrimental effects on your oral health can be very painful and cost you a lot.
How Does a Dry Mouth Affect Oral Health?
Though spitting is considered pretty gross by society, saliva is actually a cleaning fluid. It keeps your mouth clear of bacteria.
When you have a routine cleaning done at our office, after your mouth has been scrubbed clean, we flush it with water. Rinsing your mouth removes any remaining cleaning paste or loose plaque clumps from your mouth. By flushing your mouth, we can help prevent discomfort and long-term damage from any potential bits of food or harmful bacteria.
Like having your mouth rinsed by a dentist, your saliva keeps food and harmful bacteria from building up in your mouth, particularly from around your teeth. The moisture provided by the saliva breaks down food particles, and regular swallowing removes it all from the mouth completely.
When your mouth is dry, this regular cleaning cycle stops. Any food particles in your mouth remain there as pockets of food for bacteria. If left unchecked, these bacteria can infect your gums causing gum disease, or may even degrade the enamel on your teeth causing cavities.
Treating the root causes of your persistently dry mouth is a crucial step in maintaining good oral health.
What Causes Xerostomia?
Having a dry mouth is not necessarily a problem that can be addressed through treatment. Rather, it’s the symptom of a greater problem.
The catalyst that is commonly guilty of causing a dry mouth is typically medication. Why are older adults more prone to having xerostomia? It’s because older adults tend to take multiple medications that may have a side effect of dry mouth.
Some medications are more likely to cause dry mouth than others. The medications most known to cause dry mouth are:
- Mental health drugs for depression and anxiety.
- Drugs used to treat bladder issues.
- Antihistamines and decongestants.
- Blood pressure pills.
Medications are a prominent cause, but several other conditions can leave your mouth perpetually dried as well. Some of them are:
- Mouth breathing.
- Cancer therapy such as chemo or radiation treatments.
- Nerve damage.
- Tobacco use.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Other recreational drugs.
If you suspect one of the prescription medications you are taking is causing you to have a constituent dry mouth, talk to your doctor. We do not recommend quitting a medication cold-turkey without consulting your primary care physician.
Once your doctor is aware of your symptoms, they will review your medications to identify drugs that are likely to cause dry mouth. Your doctor may then prescribe a comparable medication to replace the suspect medicine.
Dry Mouth Relief at Home
If you’re experiencing xerostomia, let us know! We can help you find the relief you’re looking for. There are also a few things you can do from home:
- Medications: As mentioned previously, nasal decongestants and antihistamines can often be the cause of having a dry mouth. There are several brands and types of over-the-counter drugs that can cause xerostomia. Avoiding these medicines may help alleviate your dry mouth.
- Hydration: Another good practice is to stay hydrated. Saliva is mostly made from water. Having plenty of fluids in your body allows your saliva glands to produce the right amount of fluids for you. Regularly drinking water can keep your mouth moist and can assist your body in the normal cleaning functions that saliva normally provides.
- Good Oral Health: Even though brushing your teeth and flossing may not resolve the root causes of your dry mouth or relieve all its symptoms, it can prevent infection. Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly can stave off the bacteria that contribute to infection and cavities.
- Stimulate Saliva Flow: Your saliva glands are stimulated by sucking so you can try sucking on ice and sugar-free suckers or hard candy. You might also find that sugar-free gum helps moisten your mouth. Sipping water frequently throughout the day can also help to keep your mouth from getting too dry.
Xerostomia Treatment in Henderson, Nevada
The symptoms of xerostomia are uncomfortable and can potentially harm your teeth. Without treatment, having a dry mouth can accelerate the growth of bad bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.
Our team here at Vibrant dental stands ready to help you with your oral health. If you have been suffering the symptoms of dry mouth for a long time, it may be time to come in and have your teeth inspected by a professional to ensure no damage has been done.
To fix the problem of dry mouth, you can get a prescription for certain solutions that can increase the flow of saliva. We will do our best to help you get the care you need, whether it’s something we can help you with or referring you to a physician who can treat you better.
Schedule an Appointment for Better Oral Health With Vibrant Dental
It’s cool to drool, so if you feel concerned that xerostomia has caused your oral health to deteriorate, we have the tools and expertise you need. Give us a call today to set an appointment, and we’ll help you get the care you need.