Although everyone has a dry mouth from time to time, having a persistently dry mouth is a condition that is uncomfortable to live with and can lead to significant oral health problems. It occurs when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth sufficiently moist. Saliva plays an important role in helping to prevent tooth decay by neutralising acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food debris. Having the condition of dry mouth places you at much greater risk of tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease.
The symptoms of dry mouth include:
- Dryness or feeling of stickiness in your mouth
- Saliva that feels thick and stringy
- Bad breath
- Dry, raspy or sore throat
- Frequent thirst
- Dry, red or rough tongue
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
- Problems with wearing dentures
- Mouth sores
- Oral health problems such as increased plaque, tooth decay and gum disease
Causes of Dry Mouth
The most common cause of dry mouth is consistently not drinking enough fluids, causing a mild form of dehydration. This can be particularly exacerbated during hot weather.
Some medications have the side effect of causing dry mouth, including many over-the-counter medicines and those used to treat depression, high blood pressure and anxiety. Some antihistamines, decongestants and pain medications can cause dry mouth. It is also a common side effect when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for treating cancer.
Some people find they suffer from dry mouth as they get older. Changes in your body’s ability to process medication, nutrition deficiencies and long-term health problems can all contribute to the condition.
Dry mouth can be caused by certain health conditions including diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s or some autoimmune diseases.
Snoring and sleeping with your mouth open can make you more prone to suffering from dry mouth.
Lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking and recreational drug use can all contribute to dry mouth.
Treatment For Dry Mouth
Treatment for dry mouth will depend upon the cause, and it is recommended that you see your doctor or dentist for an assessment and diagnosis. Appropriate treatment may then focus on managing your other medical conditions, preventing tooth decay and/or increasing saliva flow where possible.
If not drinking enough fluids is a contributing factor, then a new regime of drinking more each day can be enough to combat it. Reducing your intake of caffeinated drinks, alcohol and acidic beverages is recommended to avoid exacerbating the problem, as well as quitting smoking and limiting very salty or spicy foods.
If you are taking medication that causes dry mouth, there may be alternative options your doctor can help you switch to that don’t cause the same side effects.
Having a good brushing and flossing routine at home, regular dental check-ups and dental hygiene appointments will all be essential to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Please contact us or your doctor if you are concerned about dry mouth.