All about dry mouth

Learn About the Causes and Complications of Dry Mouth

What You Need to Know About Dry Mouth

Does your mouth often feel dry or sticky? Or do you find yourself having to drink repeatedly just to swallow food? You could be suffering from xerostomia, better known as chronic dry mouth.

Dry mouth is uncomfortable, can make you feel self-conscious, and can spell trouble for your overall oral health. If you have this condition you’re at a much higher risk for developing tooth decay and gum disease due to an unbalanced oral microbiome.

Here’s what you should know if you think you may suffer from this condition.

What is dry mouth, and why does it happen?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is an oral condition in which the salivary glands are unable to create a normal level of saliva. The result is a dry oral microbiome that invites unhealthy levels of bad bacteria to form on the teeth.

This condition is unique in that there are many possible triggers for the condition, which is why you should always seek an evaluation from your dentist.

You might experience dry mouth from any of the following:

Age

The older you get, the more likely you are to experience this condition due to other contributing factors like poor nutrition, medications, and health issues.

Medications

Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, including antihistamines, muscle relaxants, pain medications, and antidepressants. Cancer therapies and similar treatments can also have this effect.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle habits like smoking, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and recreational drug use can all trigger or exacerbate dry mouth.

Systemic Disease

Diseases in the body also impact oral health. This condition often occurs in patients who also have other health conditions, such as  diabetes, poor cardiovascular health, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s. Sleep apnea can also lead to symptoms of this condition at night. 

How do I know if I have this condition?

Luckily, recognizing dry mouth is usually pretty straightforward. As the name suggests, it’s most obvious symptom is that it makes the inside of your mouth, tongue, and even your lips feel dry and sticky. However, that isn’t the only symptom of this condition.

Other symptoms to look for include:

  • Thick or stringy saliva
  • Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Dry, sore throat
  • Change in voice
  • Change in sense of taste

What does dry mouth do to my oral health?

Dry mouth is undoubtedly uncomfortable, and additional symptoms like bad breath can negatively impact your life. But those aren’t the only reasons that seeking treatment is important.

Saliva is necessary for a healthy oral microbiome. It naturally cleanses your tooth enamel, removes food debris and bad bacteria, and supports good bacteria that you need to maintain a healthy smile.

When saliva production isn’t adequate, it can cause:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Mouth sores and ulcers
  • Thrush (oral yeast infection)
  • Malnutrition

Tooth decay and gum disease are the two most common results of chronic dry mouth. These are most prevalent because both the teeth and gums rely on saliva to naturally neutralize plaque and cleanse the teeth. When it occurs, it leaves the gums and teeth vulnerable.

How can I stop my symptoms?

Dry mouth typically responds well to treatment once the underlying cause is determined. In some cases, such as when necessary medication or systemic health is the cause, the underlying cause can’t be eliminated, but your dentist can certainly still help you alleviate your symptoms.

Some treatment approaches include:

  • Changing your prescription medications
  • Stopping unhealthy lifestyle habits
  • Using oral care products or mouth rinses designed for this condition
  • Prescribing a medication that stimulates saliva production
  • Shielding against tooth decay through preventive treatment

If you suspect your condition is related to a medication or doctor-recommended supplement, do not stop taking the medication. Instead, contact your doctor for guidance on possible alternative prescriptions you might be able to try. Your dentist and your doctor can work together to find a solution that protects your body and your smile.

Your dentist is an invaluable tool in managing your dry mouth symptoms.

A knowledgeable dentist who is passionate about helping patients achieve a healthy oral microbiome can help you manage your condition—or put an end to it for good.

The Valley Dental Clinic team provides comprehensive dental care for individuals and families in the Wasilla, Alaska, area. Dr. Robinson can evaluate your symptoms, determine the underlying cause, and create a treatment plan to either help you manage your symptoms accordingly or cure the problem completely.

You can schedule your evaluation today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.

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