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Long Beach Dental Information on Dry Mouth

Causes, Effects & Remedies for Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a condition in which your mouth is unusually dry. The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (zeer-o-STO-me-uh).

Dry mouth is a common problem that may seem little more than a nuisance. But a dry mouth can affect both your enjoyment of food and the health of your teeth. Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages. Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection.

Dry mouth is a potential side effect of numerous medications (prescribed and over-the-counter). Among them are antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease medications, antidepressants and many others.

Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms. Snoring and breathing with your mouth open also can contribute to the problem. Additionally, Chemotherapy drugs can change the nature of saliva and the amount produced. Radiation treatments to your head and neck can damage salivary glands, causing a marked decrease in saliva production .

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.

Ways To Treat Dry Mouth

Although the treatment depends on the cause, dry mouth is often a side effect of medication. Dry mouth may improve with an adjusted dosage or a new prescription. If your doctor believes medication to be the cause, he or she may adjust your dosage or switch you to another medication that doesn't cause a dry mouth. Your doctor may also consider prescribing pilocarpine (Salagen) or cevimeline (Evoxac) to stimulate saliva production.

When the cause of the problem either can't be determined or can't be resolved, the following tips may help improve your dry mouth symptoms and keep your teeth healthy:

  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candies.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine can make your mouth drier.
  • Avoid sugary or acidic foods and candies because they can increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • Brush with a flouride toothpaste. Ask your dentist if you might benefit from perscription flouride toothpaste.
  • use a flouride rinse or brush on flouride gel before bedtime.
  • Do not use a mouthwash that contains alcohol because it can dry mouth.
  • Stop all tobacco use if you smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Sip water or suck ice chips throughout the day and drink water with meals to aid chewing and swallowing.
  • Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes. Look for brands containing carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxyethyl cellulose, such as Biontene Oral Balance.
  • Avoid using over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants because they can make your symptoms worse.
  • Breath through your nose instead of your mouth.

In severe cases, to prevent cavities, your dentist might fit you for coverings for your teeth filled with fluoride to wear at night. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

Maintaining proper dental health and regular check-ups can help to prevent dental problems. If you are having issues with severe dry mouth and nothing seems to work, contact us today at 562-494-3477 to schedule an appointment or to find out information on treatment options.


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