Published December 5, 2017
Have you ever felt like you have a dry mouth? Most people have this sensation from time to time but for a segment of the population this is an ongoing issue, the technical term for this is xerostomia. Dry mouth is fairly common and has been noted to occur in 20-30% of the general population with an increased prevalence of up to 50% of seniors.
Side effects of medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. The more medications a person is taking, the higher the risk they will suffer from a dry mouth. Other causes include Sjogren’s syndrome, mouth breathing, and the aging process itself.
So why does this matter? From a dental perspective, dry mouth is a concern because it can lead to increased number of cavities and more severe cavities in difficult locations such as the roots of teeth. Saliva typically helps clear the mouth of food and debris and decreases the stickiness of bacteria ridden plaque. Saliva also helps to lower the acidity in the mouth after eating. The acidity along with increased bacteria and food debris is a perfect scenario for cavity formation.
Thankfully, there are options to help defend against the negative consequences of a dry mouth. First, sipping water throughout the day can help to keep the mouth moist. Water is the best choice of liquids due to the fact it will not increase the acidity of the mouth which leads to an increased risk of cavities.
There are several products on the market to help with dry mouth. Many companies now sell mouthwashes, gels, xylitol chewing gum, sprays and more. There is no perfect product out there, so the best bet is to try different products until you find one that is effective for you. Ask your dentist or pharmacist if you need help choosing products for dry mouth.
Prescription fluoride toothpaste is recommended for those at a high risk of cavities from a dry mouth. The high concentration toothpaste is either applied like regular toothpaste for most. But for those with aggressive tooth decay, special trays can be fabricated and worn with the fluoride placed inside to increase the contact time between the teeth and prescription toothpaste.
If you have dry mouth and are taking prescription medications, be sure to discuss any symptoms of a dry mouth with your physician in case they are able to alter medications you may take. Certain medications are more likely to cause dry mouth than others; sometimes your physician can switch to an alternate medication to lower this risk. Also, discuss with your physician if you have a combination of dry mouth and dry eyes. This may be a sign of Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease most often affecting women.
Many people suffer with a dry mouth and don’t realize there are options. Hopefully the information above will give you a place to start to seek relief.