Dry mouth is a troubling side effect which can be caused by numerous factors. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. Saliva is crucial for the health of the mouth. Saliva is needed for tasting, chewing, swallowing, talking and to wash away the food particles from your mouth.
Dry mouth symptoms
The individuals who suffer from xerostomia have the following symptoms:
- A dry feeling in the mouth
- Thick, stringy and sticky saliva
- Burning or pain sensation in the mouth
- Cracks on the lips and the corners of the mouth
- Difficulty talking
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or tasting
- A dry tongue
Dry mouth can cause a lot of dental problems. Without the saliva that helps maintain the balance of bacteria in your mouth, the bacteria, and similar organisms will increase their numbers quickly causing sores, mouth infections and tooth decay. Furthermore, people with dry mouth find it difficult to wear their dentures.
Dry mouth causes
Most of the time dry mouth is caused by dehydration. That is why it is recommended to drink a lot of water.
Radiation treatments and chemotherapy usually cause dry mouth if done in the head and neck area, damaging the salivary glands. Chemotherapy makes the saliva thicker, causing temporary dry mouth. But radiation treatment to the neck, head, and face can result in 6-8 months dry mouth condition (sometimes longer). And even though there are persons who experience an improvement in the saliva flow in their first year, there are those who experience long-term dry mouth after radiation therapy.
Injuries to the face and neck can also disturb the salivary glands making them produce less saliva than usual. Other factors that cause xerostomia are particular medication, especially antidepressants.
Managing your dry mouth
There are many things you can do if you are suffering from dry mouth. The first thing you should do is to talk with your dentist and schedule an appointment. Together you will be able to determine why the glands don’t produce enough saliva anymore and try to remedy this.
Until your dry mouth problem is resolved you can:
- Try alternative prescription medication
- Use saliva substitutes
- Use mouth rinses with hyprolose, hytellose or carmellose
- Suck on sugar-free candies to stimulate the salivary glands
- Try medication that stimulates the salivary glands, like cevimeline (Evoxac) or pilocarpine (Salagen)
Here are some useful tips that will help you manage your dry mouth and prevent any dental problems:
- When you realize that you suffer from dry mouth visit your dentist as soon as possible
- Brush your teeth after each meal and before going to bed
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush
- Rinse your mouth at least six times a day, including after each meal, using salt, baking soda, and water.
- If you do radiation therapy, it is critical to use fluoride rinses, gels, and dental products
- Drink water throughout the day
- Use artificial saliva to moisten your mouth
- Use cool mist humidifiers, especially at night
If you are suffering from dry mouth, you should avoid consuming acidic and sugary foods and beverages, don’t drink and use tobacco products, avoid sticky foods and drink a lot of water.
With the help of your dentist, you can get rid of dry mouth and improve your oral health.