HAVE YOU EVER woken up with your mouth feeling like a barren desert? Then you’ve probably experienced dry mouth, although it can be even more severe, making it difficult to speak or even eat. Dry mouth affects a tenth of the population, but why is it such a problem, why does it happen, and what can we do about it?
In The Absence Of Saliva…
Saliva is the mouth’s first line of defense against bacteria, bad breath, and tooth decay. It washes away leftover food particles and neutralizes acids, protecting our teeth and gums. Consequently, when there isn’t enough saliva to perform all of these important tasks, the result is much more serious than just an unpleasant sandpaper feeling.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth has numerous causes, including smoking, drinking, dehydration, and even aging. Sometimes the salivary glands can be damaged by chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But the most common cause is ordinary medication. Over 400 medications include dry mouth on their lists of side effects. If you’ve been suffering medication-related dry mouth, come talk to us about options like switching to different medication or changing the dosage. We will consult with your prescribing physician and help find a medication or adjust a dose to keep a moist mouth. Sometimes doing something as simple as changing a blood pressure medication to a different brand will make a difference. A dry mouth is one of the most irritating things you can have. Those that have it know exactly what we mean, those that don’t have it don’t ever want to find out how bad it is.
There are many diseases that can cause dry mouth such as Cystic Fibrosis. There is a much more common disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome or Sjogren’s Disease. This disease is fairly common the most common people with it are women and it has an onset of 40-60 years of age. It is an autoimmune disorder, that causes dryness to the eyes, mouth, and other areas. One of the most common side effects of this disease is dental caries or cavities. We have seen many instances where people don’t know they have it and we send them to get tested because of their extreme dry mouth. There is not a cure for Sjogren’s Disease but we can manage the symptoms of dry mouth. There are specialist physicians for this disease and they can help a person cope with it as well.
Good Habits To Prevent Or Reduce Dry Mouth
For particularly severe dry mouth, artificial saliva could provide relief and protect your teeth from decay, but there are also a few good habits that can minimize the problem.
Avoid breathing through your mouth—whether you’re awake or asleep. Even for people with fully functioning salivary glands, mouth breathing is going to result in a much drier mouth than nose breathing. For that—and many other health reasons—it’s important to breathe through your nose whenever possible, including during sleep.
Stay hydrated. Your salivary glands can’t produce saliva if you’re not drinking enough water, and even if saliva production is impeded for other reasons, regularly sipping water can help eliminate the dry mouth feeling.
Stimulate Saliva Production
Sugar-free gum and candy encourage your salivary glands to up their production, particularly if the flavor is citrus, mint, or cinnamon.
Bonus points: Sugar-free gum is also good for your teeth because it starves the bacteria that feed on sugar!
Biotene is a company with a line of products that are specifically targeted to prevent and help treat dry mouth. The good news is they are all over the counter and can be found at local drug stores here in Chattanooga.
We can write a prescription for things to help with dry mouth. We have compounding pharmacies here in Chattanooga that we partner with to make special lollipops with a medication in them that will get your mouth moist immediately.
Xylimelts are a Godsend to some of our patients. They are a wafer that sticks to your cheek that stimulates saliva as it dissolves. Many of our patients use them to sleep at night.
Choose Your Mouthwash Carefully
Mouthwash containing alcohol may undo its own positive germ-killing effects by drying out your mouth! Just like drinking alcoholic beverages has a dehydrating effect on the body, swishing alcoholic liquid around will specifically dehydrate the mouth! Make sure you choose a non-alcoholic mouthwash.
As smoking is one of the common causes of dry mouth, not smoking is an obvious solution. The same goes for dry mouth caused by alcohol intake.
We Can Beat Dry Mouth Together!
Dry mouth can pose a serious threat to your oral health, so aside from following these good habits, one of the best things you can do if you experience it is to schedule an appointment with us. We’ll be able to identify the cause and make a plan to put an end to that sandpaper feeling!