Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, is a condition that affects the flow of saliva. Saliva is essential for breaking down food, assisting with swallowing, and cleansing bacteria off of the gums and teeth. Low saliva production can cause difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and even speaking. Not addressing the problem can lead to tooth decay, oral infections, and tooth sensitivity. If you’re suffering through this condition, the dentists at McBride Dental can help you with treatment options to ensure the long-term health of your smile.
Saliva is secreted from the major and minor salivary glands. Normal saliva production ranges from 0.5 to 1.5 liters per day in healthy individuals. Saliva is composed of mostly water with numerous electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, and phosphates, but organic compounds can also be found in saliva, which includes proteins, enzymes, and mucins. The proteins and mucins keep the oral tissues lubricated, which protect the mucosa, or mucous membrane, from chemical, microbial, and physical injury.
Certain medications are the most common cause of xerostomia. Studies have shown that over 400 over-the-counter medications cause or contribute to dry mouth. Some of the medications include antihistamines, antihypertensives, decongestants, diuretics, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and pain medications. Anyone taking four or more medications daily is at a very high risk of developing xerostomia. Certain illnesses also cause dry mouths, such as diabetes, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Symptoms of xerostomia range from mild to severe oral discomfort. The most obvious symptom is having a dry mouth, but other symptoms include a sticky, dry, or burning feeling in the mouth. Some people may experience mouth sores, dry tongue, sore throat, cracked lips, bad breath, hoarseness, or difficulty chewing, swallowing, tasting, and speaking. Some even develop an intolerance for sour, spicy, or salty foods and drinks. There have even been some cases where the mouth becomes red and shiny. The symptoms are far-reaching, but they’re all unpleasant and severely reduce your quality of life if left untreated.
Medical professionals haven’t discovered any preventative methods to decrease the chances of developing xerostomia. However, there are things individuals can do to help relieve their symptoms.
Pharmacologic treatment with salivary stimulants, topical fluoride, saliva substitutes, or chewing sugar-free gum can help manage the condition. Those with dry mouth may also benefit from gently brushing their teeth twice daily, flossing daily, maintaining dental checkups twice yearly, using a fluoride gel to prevent tooth decay, and applying fluoride varnish to the teeth.
Individuals can also sip sugar-free drinks, suck on ice cubes, use lubricants every two hours, avoid salty or spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine, and foods, and use a humidifier at night to help manage symptoms.
At McBride Dental, we recommend that our patients maintain their checkups twice a year so that we can inspect their teeth and gums to check for any developing oral issues including dry mouth. We offer deep cleanings and dental sealants as well as homecare suggestions for the maintenance of a healthy mouth. We will even prescribe any necessary treatments and offer other solutions depending on each patient’s needs. If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry mouth or are interested in preventative care, contact us at 760-471-1003 to schedule an appointment.