Occasionally, a patient will visit our office expecting to have no dental cavities, and is very surprised to learn that they have one. Often, this patient is middle-aged or older, brushes and flosses every day, and has no prior history of tooth decay. When this happens, dentists immediately begin to suspect dry mouth caused by new medications or an undiagnosed condition. Dry mouth causes a decrease in saliva production, which is crucial for regulating oral bacteria and keeping the teeth healthy. Below is more information about the causes of dry mouth, and some treatments that can help.
Common Causes of Dry Mouth
Many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Common dry-mouth inducing medications include muscle relaxants; pain medications; antidepressants; blood pressure and heart rhythm medications; Parkinson’s and Alzheimers disease medications; antihistamines; and decongestants. Recreational drug use, chemotherapy, nerve damage due to injury or surgery, and poor nutrition can also cause dry mouth. Note that this list is far from comprehensive; to learn whether a medication, behavior or condition may be causing your dry mouth, consult with your doctor or pharmacist.
Treatments for Dry Mouth
Regardless of the cause of your dry mouth, it’s important to do something about it, as lack of saliva can lead to cavities, gingivitis (gum disease), and halitosis (bad breath). Below are some tips on managing dry mouth from our Apex dentist.
Hydration is important for many aspects of your health in general, but for those suffering from dry mouth, it is even more important. Strive to drink at least 8-12 eight ounce glasses of water a day, unless your doctor advises against it. Taking small sips throughout the day will benefit you more than consuming a large amount in one sitting, as it helps to “wash” your teeth all day long.
Chew Sugarless Gum
Chewing sugarless gum can help to stimulate saliva production, providing your salivary glands are still operational, and not permanently damaged by injury or chemotherapy. The best sugar substitute, from a dentist’s perspective, is xylitol, a plant-derived sweetener that actively kills harmful tooth bacteria. Sucking on sugar-free lollipops can also help boost saliva production.
Avoid Drugs, Alcohol & Citrus
Alcohol, caffeine, and citric acid can all dry out the mouth and inhibit saliva production. If you use an alcoholic mouthwash, you might want to try switching to a saltwater rinse instead. On the subject of indulgences, tobacco and marijuana can also worsen dry mouth, so if you use these, try to decrease or eliminate your use. Note that the nicotine in electronic cigarettes also contributes to dry mouth.
Add Moisture to Your Environment
Moistening dry foods with broth, sauces, milk or melted butter can make it easier to chew and swallow; you could also simply try adding more non-citric fruit and vegetables to your diet. You can also use a humidifier to add moisture to the ambient air around you, especially while you sleep.
Suffering from Dry Mouth? Talk to an Apex Dentist Today
As oral healthcare specialists, dentists are able to assess potential causes of dry mouth, and prescribe or recommend products that can treat it. Many moisturizing gels, lozenges, and mouthwashes designed specifically to treat dry mouth are available over the counter; if these prove to be ineffective, your dentist can prescribe medications that stimulate the saliva glands. To reach a dentist in Apex NC, please click here.