Posts for tag: dry mouth
The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth), something that many of us have experienced at some point in life. However, for some people it can be a chronic condition that is ideal for promoting tooth decay. It can also be a warning sign of a more serious health condition.
Dry mouth occurs when there is an insufficient flow of saliva, the fluid secreted by the salivary glands. Your major salivary glands are located in two places: inside the checks by the back top molars and in the floor of the mouth, with about six hundred tiny glands scattered throughout your mouth. And many people are surprised to learn that when they are functioning normally, saliva glands secret between two and four pints of saliva per day! While this may sound like a lot (and it is), saliva is key for buffering or neutralizing acids in the mouth. Without this powerful protection, tooth decay can increase quickly. This is especially true for older individuals who have exposed tooth root surfaces.
It is also important to note that there are times when mouth dryness is perfectly normal. For example, when you wake, you will probably have a slightly dry mouth because saliva flow slows at night. Another example is if you are dehydrated when it is simply a warning sign that you need to drink more fluids (especially water). Other causes for temporary dry mouth include stress as well as what you consume: coffee, alcohol, onions, and certain spices.
You can also have a dry mouth due to a side effect from an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medication. If it turns out that this is the cause in your case, you need to talk to the prescribing physician to see if there is something else you can take to avoid this side effect. If there are no substitutes, one tip you can try is to take several sips of water before taking the medication followed by a full glass of water, or chew gum containing xylitol, which moistens your mouth and decreases the risk of tooth decay.
Another cause of dry mouth is radiation treatment for cancer in the head and neck region. Yes, these treatments are crucial for fighting cancer; however, they can inflame, damage or destroy salivary glands. You can also have dry mouth from certain systemic (general body) or autoimmune (“auto” – self; “immune” – resistance system) diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
Millions of people suffer from mouth dryness, but most people just never talk about it. As your dental care providers, we don't want you to keep it a secret anymore and mouth dryness really can be a problem.
Why? Saliva is a very important fluid that moisturizes, lubricates, and aids in the first stages of chewing and digestion. A normal flow of saliva provides antibacterial benefits that even protect against cavities by buffering the effects of acids. It can also make the surfaces of your teeth more vulnerable to abrasion and erosion. Without enough saliva, you may be especially at risk for not only tooth decay, but even yeast infections.
Causes of dryness include dehydration and even morning breath, both of which are normal. Smoking, alcohol and coffee drinking also cause dryness. It is also a side effect of many medications. Although mouth dryness is not a disease in itself, it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.
As a first step in the treatment, we will assess your situation by taking a detailed habit, diet, medical, and drug history to properly assess the cause and establish whether this is a local condition affecting only your mouth or an indication of a generalized bodily problem.
It's always helpful to keep yourself well hydrated by simply drinking a sufficient amount of water every day and by using good daily oral hygiene to remove dental bacterial plaque. Chewing gum, especially containing Xylitol, will also help promote saliva flow and keep your mouth moist. Be careful not to suck on candy or mints, because they are likely to cause decay. There are also prescription medications that can be used to promote more saliva flow.