Dry Mouth Syndrome

01 August 2018   Dr. Rick Farnsworth
I Struggle With Dry Mouth. What Causes it, and More Importantly, What Can I Do About It?

I know that dry mouth can be a real struggle for many individuals, especially for the elderly and for women. Dry mouth is a real syndrome also known as xerostomia and it occurs when we have a decreased amount of saliva in our mouths. This condition can be very frustrating and uncomfortable for those who experience it on a regular basis. Having a dry mouth can create difficulty for one when speaking, eating, and during other daily tasks. It can lead to anxiety, permanent mouth and throat disorders, and can negatively affect a person’s everyday life. If dry mouth is ignored, it can also have serious effects on the oral environment.

Dry mouth affects 10% of all people, mostly women, the elderly, and those taking prescription and non-prescription medications.

Don't take your saliva for granted! Saliva plays a very important role in oral health, helping us digest food with its enzymes and lubricating our mouths. Many people do not know that saliva also protects teeth from decay, infection, and cavities. Acidity causes tooth decay and it attacks the tooth structure which forms a hole or cavity. Saliva protects our mouths from some of the acid by acting as a “buffering” solution. It attempts to neutralize acidity that attacks the tooth structure. If there is a lack of saliva, like when people have dry mouth it changes the composition of the saliva. This results in a more acidic salivary flow and causes decay to occur more quickly. A dentist will then need to use more invasive techniques to restore and maintain the existing tooth structure. With this understanding, we now know that if we lack a sufficient amount of saliva, we are potentially comprising our oral health long term. Therefore, it is important to try to find solutions to help solve dry mouth.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Radiation or Chemotherapy: Radiation therapy that targets cancers in the head and neck area can directly affect and damage the cells within the salivary glands. This can result in a decrease of salivary flow. Chemotherapy also targets cells that reproduce more quickly, as they are trying to attack cancers. Salivary glands reproduce cells very quickly to produce new saliva, and therefore may be negatively affected by chemotherapy. This often results in a decrease of the production of saliva and puts individuals at risk for xerostomia and tooth decay.

Medications: Medications that are bought over the counter and prescriptions prescribed by your doctor can cause dry mouth as a side effect. A few examples of medications or prescriptions that may cause dry mouth are: blood pressure medication, decongestants, urinary continuance medications, and medications that manage long term disorders.

Age: Dry mouth is not necessarily a natural part of aging. However, as individuals age they typically take more prescriptions and medications and therefore may be at higher risk for dry mouth.

Some other common causes include: stress, depression, poorly controlled diabetes, anxiety, stroke and Sjorgren's syndrome.

Prevention Care Tips:

People with dry mouth need to pay special attention to preventing tooth decay and gingivitis. This can be achieved by:

  •  An increased attention to at home oral care: such as using a baking soda rinse and fluoride tooth paste 
  •  An increase in frequency of professional hygiene cleanings for plaque removal
  •  Stimulate salivary flow by using sugar free gum or lozenges. 
  •  Dentist recommend fluoride trays to help apply topical fluoride to specific locations within the mouth.
  •  Sleeping with a humidifier nightly.

If you are suffering with the symptoms of dry mouth, it is imperative to let your dentist know so he or she can formulate an individualized treatment plan for you. Dry mouth treatment is crucial for oral health because it can protect your teeth and gums from decay, cavities, and more complex dental issues that will require invasive and costly care. 

To learn more about dry mouth and our recommendations for relief, call our office to make an appointment or consultation with Dr. Rick Farnsworth or Dr. Jason Campbell. We would love to discuss your options and answer any questions you have as soon possible! Call 928-776-1208. Visit our website for more information about all the dental treatments we offer: www.prescottdentist.com.