It’s common to pass off dry mouth as a minor nuisance. But it can severely damage your oral health if left unaddressed.
Does your mouth constantly feel parched? If so, you could have a condition known as dry mouth, or xerostomia, which is quite common. The American Dental Association estimates up to 26 percent of men and 33 percent of women suffer from dry mouth.
Dry mouth may seem like a minor annoyance you must live with, but it can significantly impact your oral health. If dry mouth isn’t treated, it can lead to tooth decay, a yeast infection (thrush) in the mouth, difficulty chewing and tasting food, and painful sores in the mouth and around the lips. Instead of ignoring the persistent feeling of dryness in your mouth, visit your dentist for a diagnosis of what’s causing it and get treatment to relieve your symptoms.
What causes dry mouth?
Your mouth contains saliva-producing glands. Saliva is essential in keeping your teeth and gums healthy by washing away decay-causing bacteria and food particles. Saliva also aids in digestion and enhances your taste and enjoyment of food.
But if you don’t produce enough saliva, your mouth doesn’t get the moisture it needs, causing it to feel extremely dry. Common causes of dry mouth include:
Certain medications. Medications that treat depression, high blood pressure, and anxiety can cause dry mouth. Antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and pain medication have the same effect.
Age. Dry mouth is more common among older people due to medications and other age-associated health problems.
A chronic health condition. Dry mouth can result from a chronic condition, such as diabetes, or an autoimmune disease, specifically Sjogren’s syndrome.
Your lifestyle. Smoking and alcohol can sap your mouth of saliva. If you snore and breathe through your mouth, your mouth will feel drier.
Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation to the head and neck can impact your saliva-producing glands. Your saliva production may return to normal once treatment ends.
How is dry mouth treated?
Treatment depends on what’s causing your dry mouth. If medication is the cause, talk to your dentist or doctor about adjusting the dosage while managing your chronic condition. Otherwise, you can ask your dentist about therapies to combat dry mouth, or you can try some at-home remedies, such as:
Chew sugar-free gum. Boost your saliva flow by chewing on sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy. Choose one that contains cavity-preventing xylitol. However, xylitol can cause stomach upsets if consumed in large amounts. Avoid sugary, spicy foods that can irritate the mouth.
Buy an OTC saliva substitute. Over-the-counter saliva substitutes with xylitol are available. You can also ask your dentist for a prescription.
Rinse with a mouthwash for dry mouth. Again, look for one with xylitol. Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol that can parch your mouth.
Sip plenty of water. Sipping water keeps your mouth moist, especially during meals. Another option is to suck on ice.
Limit tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol dehydrate your mouth, so cut down on smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages.
Use a humidifier. Place a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air.
Fluoride treatments. Since dry mouth heightens your risk of tooth decay, you may need extra fluoride treatments. Your dentist can prescribe a fluoride toothpaste or a fluoride gel to brush on before bedtime. Your dentist can also fit you with a custom tray to apply fluoride to your teeth.
Don’t let dry mouth diminish your everyday life. At the first sign of it, visit your dentist.
Your oral health is important to us
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Fort Collins, CO, location today! Our highly trained dentists can help you overcome dry mouth and fight tooth decay. Don’t live near our Fort Collins, CO office? Find one of our other locations near you.
2117 Custer Drive
Fort Collins, CO 80525