We’ve all woken up the odd morning with an excessively dry mouth that has us grabbing a glass of water. But imagine living with that degree of oral dryness every day, and worse drinking a litre of water or more don’t even seem to help combat the feeling of dryness. The condition of a dry mouth is very real and can impact patients who take certain prescription medications or who suffer from certain illnesses or diseases. To make matters worse, this condition isn’t just uncomfortable, but it also puts teeth and other oral tissues at greater risk for decay and disease.
What is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth or Xerostomia is the excessive dehydration of oral tissues caused by salivary gland diseases or removal, certain prescription medications, cancer drugs and radiation treatment, smoking and chewing tobacco, and some hormonal treatments. Conditions like sleep apnea and mouth breathing also contribute to the dehydration of the mouth and put a patient at greater risk of certain dental diseases. Fortunately some habits, like smoking and chewing tobacco, can be stopped, and an almost immediate improvement in oral tissue follows. But when medication for illness and disease can’t be changed or stopped, other measures can be taken to help reduce the damaging effects of dry mouth.
Why Does Dry Mouth Increase the Risk of Decay and Gum Disease?
Saliva plays an important role in the mouth as it hydrates; cleanses the surfaces of teeth, cheeks, and tongue; and also helps with the digestion of food and the control of oral bacteria and fungi. Without saliva, the mouth would be overrun with damaging bacteria that irritate oral tissues and contribute to infection and decay.
What Can Patients Do to help ease the symptoms of dry mouth and protect their teeth and gums from a lack of saliva? Sipping on sugarless fluids throughout the day is often a big help in creating a more hydrated environment. Avoiding caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda further assist in keeping the mouth hydrated and comfortable. Some patients find it helpful to chew on a sugarless gum – as the action of chewing increases saliva flow and can make the mouth feel fresher. There are also products on the market that have been made to deal with the dry mouth. Products like Biotene contain glycerine which can provide additional comfort to mouths and lips that are cracked from dryness.
At Ranchlands Dental, we want all of our patients to be comfortable. Talk to your dental team about sleep apnea, mouth breathing, and medications that may be causing dry mouth. Recommendations can be made to help you deal with this annoying symptom.