Xerostomia, or dry mouth as it is commonly called, comes from several sources: anxiety and stress, cancer treatment, immunosuppression plus others. More than annoying, dry mouth contributes to worrisome dental issues, such as cavities. Learn more about xerostomia and how to deal with it from Central Dental Associates, your caring dentists in Whiting.
Is Xerostomia Harmful?
A persistently dry mouth can harm your entire system as the soft oral tissues become very sticky and even irritated to the point of infection. Adequate saliva production moisturizes the mouth and the esophagus, starting digestion with an enzyme called amylase. The body naturally produces amylase to break down the sugars and starches in our diets. Without amylase, the esophagus and stomach cannot digest food as they should.
Without enough saliva, you can’t taste, speak, chew and swallow properly. In fact, the drier the mouth becomes, the more problems your oral tissues will develop. Saliva is an excellent antimicrobial and protects the mouth from viral and bacterial infections such as common cold sore.
Why Xerostomia Happens
Physicians at the well-respected Mayo Clinic say that dry mouth can be part of the natural aging process. Many thousands of women over 40 suffer from it, and about 20 percent of senior adults have dry mouth. Other factors such as anxiety and chronic stress, plus not being adequately hydrated, contribute. Too much caffeine and alcohol, some spicy foods and excessive salt intake dry out the tongue, palate, gums and lips.
Prescription medications cause xerostomia, too. Cancer drugs, anti-hypertensive medications, muscle relaxants and water pills remove moisture from the system. If you think one of your prescription medications is problematic, ask your primary care physician or pharmacist about it. There may be a different medication you could use.
Health conditions which precipitate dry mouth include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Cystic fibrosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Autoimmune disorders, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, which affects tear and salivary glands
- Liver and kidney disease
How to Alleviate Dry Mouth
Dr. Viventi and his colleagues at Central Dental Associates diagnose dry mouth. The dentist may advise something simple such as increasing your water intake and chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. Limiting coffee, tea and colas, along with reducing alcohol and salt intake helps. Smoking cessation reduces symptoms, and of course, stopping all tobacco usage benefits overall health, too.
Certain foods reduce dryness. Hard cheeses, such as sharp cheddar, fibrous vegetables, such as celery and fruits, such as apples and pears, increase saliva production.
Some people use a room humidifier to moisturize the air, especially in their bedrooms at night. Others try to breathe more through the nose. Denture wearers should remove their appliances at night. Over-the-counter dry mouth rinses and saliva stimulants and substitutes relieve the uncomfortable symptoms.
Is Your Mouth Really Dry?
Get your six-month check-ups and professional cleanings at Central Dental Associates. Brush twice a day with a soft toothbrush, and floss once a day. Select a fluoride toothpaste with the ADA seal of approval. Good home hygiene stimulates salivary glands, keeps digestion on track and moisturizes your mouth.
Contact Central Dental Associates for your routine appointment. Tell your dentist if you are experiencing symptoms of dryness so he or she can help you treat it.