Managing a Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a common, unpleasant side effect of many medications, among them: antihistamines, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, pain relievers, and diuretics. Dry mouth is often associated with Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure. It can be exacerbated by smoking, alcohol, and caffeine. Radiation treatment and chemotherapy can also result in dry mouth. At times, the cause of dry mouth cannot be determined.
Saliva has many functions. It helps to keep the mouth clean and the surfaces of the teeth and gums lubricated. Enzymes and minerals in the saliva help protect the teeth from decay and help prevent gum disease. Inadequate or thickened saliva can cause a feeling of stickiness, soreness, or even burning in addition to dryness. Sometimes a metallic taste may be present. Taste may be diminished, and, in extreme cases, there can be difficulty in swallowing and speaking.
The following can be helpful in managing dry mouth:
- Small, frequent sips of water
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods
- More frequent dental check-ups
- Use of a dry-mouth toothpaste
- Use of dry-mouth rinses and/or sprays
- Daily use of a fluoride rinse.
There is a tendency to want to suck on hard candy to increase saliva flow. We have seen many patients quickly get into serious trouble with tooth decay. In the absence of the protective properties of saliva, teeth decay much more easily. The sugar in candy attacks the unprotected teeth and severe decay can rapidly follow. A sugar-free hard candy can be an acceptable substitute.
For more information on Dry Mouth and medications associated with Dry Mouth, follow this link: http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/dental/xerostomia.htm
Our patients have found the following products helpful in managing a dry mouth:
- Oral Balance Biotene: rinses, toothpastes, gels, and gum. In addition, Biotene offers a specially formulated adhesive to help denture patients
- Sensodyne Oasis: mouthwash and convenient spray.
- Georgie's Bonbons
These products are available over-the-counter.
Links to the manufacturer's websites: