Xerostomia, The Battle With Dry Mouth

Dry mouth also known as Xerostomia occurs when there is a decrease of saliva in the mouth. There are a number of reasons for this, and sometimes you may not even notice. Xerostomia (dry mouth) can range from slight to severe. Even if you don’t notice your dry mouth, your dentist or hygienist might. Some of the more common causes of dry mouth are:

  • Side effect of medications
  • Head & neck radiation
  • result of disease ( i.e., Sjogren’s Syndrome, Hypertension, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS,
      Hepatitis C and/or Lymphoma)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Smoking
  • Dehydration

Saliva plays a very important role in the oral cavity. It is important to keep the tissue moist and lubricated which helps prevent disease. Saliva acts as a buffer to acids in the mouth which also helps to prevent decay. It also assists with chewing, talking and your ability to swallow. When saliva is decreased, we are at a much greater risk of developing tooth decay.

Decay can progress rapidly if dry mouth is not treated.

Treatment for xerostomia requires identifying the cause. If it’s due to a medication side effect, your dentist and/or hygienist can work with your physician to find a good alternative. If you’re a mouth breather, possible referral to an ENT may be helpful.  Xerostomia as a result of smoking would be helped by smoking cessation. If there isn’t much to be done to “cure” the dry mouth, there are steps that need to be taken to decrease the occurrence of decay at a high rate. These include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing fluoride via: Clinpro toothpaste, an Oral rinse such a Biotene and/or fluoride take home trays.
  • Maintaining periodic hygiene visits
  • Using a source of xylitol
  • Increasing water consumption
  • Practicing good oral hygiene 
  • Managing diet to decrease sugar intake.

When we do not address dry mouth, an individual may go from no cavities to many cavities in a matter of months, and from there the decay is much harder to control. If you suspect you have dry mouth whether or not you know the cause, bring it up at your next dental visit. The sooner it is addressed the better we are able to preserve your teeth! 

References

ADAhttps://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/xerostomia

American Academy of Oral Medicine https://www.aaom.com/index.php%3Foption=com_content&view=article&id=107:xerostomia&catid=22:patient-condition-information&Itemid=120

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