Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a relatively common condition affecting 20-25% of the adult population. Women are affected more than men; it is more predominate in the older population than younger.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
A person with a dry mouth will have a reduction of saliva. This lack of saliva can affect a person’s taste, speech, swallowing, and digestion. It can also contribute to tooth decay. In addition to a decrease in saliva production, other symptoms include a dry or sore tongue that can also develop an infection. Difficulty swallowing and eating dry foods can mean dry mouth also. Problems with taste can occur as well as sensitivity to certain foods that are salty, acidic, or spicy.
Treatment for Dry Mouth
Treatment for dry mouth can vary dependent on the underlying cause. Many medications on the market can cause dry mouth. If you believe this could be what is contributing to your condition, discuss it with your doctor. He or she may adjust your dosage to relieve your symptoms. Other causes are aging, depression, certain diseases, or radiation treatments.
The symptoms of dry mouth can be alleviated by sipping on water or any sugar-free drink throughout the day. Milk has been shown to be a good saliva substitute and can help your teeth at the same time. Chewing sugarless gum or sucking sugar-free hard candies can help activate your salivary glands. If the air in your home is dry, a humidifier can help keep the air you breathe moist. A humidifier is particularly useful at night. Prescription drugs with little or no side effects are on the market that can help xerostomia. A discussion with your doctor could provide information on this remedy if needed.
Avoiding Problem Foods
If you suffer from xerostomia, you should avoid certain foods or habits. Alcohol and caffeine contribute to dry mouth symptoms. This includes mouthwashes that contain alcohol also. Read labels when purchasing mouthwashes. Avoid salty, dry, or spicy foods. Smoking is known to dry out the mouth so should be avoided if possible.
Importance of Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene is a must if you suffer from dry mouth. Saliva helps to keep your mouth clean and if your body is not producing the correct amount it can lead to cavities and gum disease. Have regular checkups at your dentist and ask his or her advice on keeping your mouth clean and moist. Brushing after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and flossing will help to keep your teeth and gums healthy. A good mouthwash will aid good dental hygiene; just make sure there is no alcohol in the ingredient list. Cleaning your tongue with either a soft brush or tongue scraper should be part of your daily regimen.
Talk to Your Dentist
If you believe you have dry mouth, it is best to consult with your doctor first. Your doctor can diagnose your condition and suggest ways to help, depending on the cause. Altering prescription drug dosages could help if that is the cause, and it is possible to do so. The methods above may help in relieving this uncomfortable condition if the cause is something else that cannot be changed. Remember to visit your dentist regularly to avoid tooth and gum problems that dry mouth can cause.