Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a common ailment affecting as much as 65% of people in the world at some time in their lives. If you’ve ever suffered from dry mouth, you may wonder what has caused it and how you can treat and prevent it. Learn more about how this common health condition can impact you at all stages of your life.
What Is Dry Mouth?
A clear substance called saliva helps healthy mouths stay wet and comfortable. Dry mouth occurs when your salivary glands don’t produce sufficient saliva to keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth, Xerostomia, can be a side effect of certain medical conditions, medication use, or other factors.
The following are common signs of dry mouth:
- A dry sensation in the mouth and throat
- Persistent thirst
- Cracked lips and corners of the mouth
- Sores around and in the mouth
- Sore throat.
The Dangers of Dry Mouth
Saliva neutralizes the acids from bacteria in the mouth, the foods you eat, and the beverages you drink. It also makes chewing and swallowing easier and aids digestion. When your mouth is dry, the acids in your mouth are more concentrated and are more likely to cause tooth decay and gum disease. The chances of tooth decay also increase because food particles are more likely to linger in a dry mouth.
Saliva also helps your teeth absorb key minerals including calcium and fluoride. Without enough saliva, your teeth can become weaker and vulnerable to damage.
Without enough saliva to provide proper lubrication, parts of the mouth including the tongue and gums can become swollen and inflamed. This condition provides an environment for germs to breed and cause bad breath.
Dry Mouth in Children
Dry mouth is more common in adults than children, but the condition can still impact young people. The following are some of the most common causes of dry mouth in children:
- Excess fluid loss, especially during bouts of diarrhea and stomach bugs or during hot summer weather
- Breathing through the mouth
- Medications prescribed for mood disorders and childhood cancers
- Some medical conditions, including diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Dry Mouth in Adults
Adults are more likely to develop dry mouth than children. They can develop dry mouth for all the same reasons children can. In addition, the following factors may also cause dry mouth in adults:
- Medications for high blood pressure, allergies, colds, the flu, and Parkinson’s disease
- Some medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dry Mouth in Older Adults
Older adults are more likely to suffer from dry mouth than any other demographic since they are more likely to have illnesses and take medications that can trigger the condition compared to younger Canadians. However, dry mouth should not be considered a normal part of aging. Older adults may develop dry mouth for all the reasons children and adults do.
Dry Mouth Treatment
Regardless of your age, some simple habits can help improve the flow of saliva in your mouth.
- Suck on mints or chew gum: Both mints and gum encourage the production and flow of saliva in your mouth. Choose sugar-free mints and gum with strong natural flavours, such as spearmint, for the best results that won’t compromise the health of your teeth.
- Drink plenty of water: Among its many benefits, water promotes saliva production. Keeping a water bottle on hand can remind you to take a sip of water when your mouth feels dry. The Government of Canada recommends making water your drink of choice because it’s healthy, hydrating, and thirst-quenching.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks: These beverages are diuretics which can leave you and your mouth dehydrated.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables: Bypass potato chips and chocolates and choose nutritious fruits and vegetables to ease your hunger pains. These foods are not only healthy, but they’re also full of water, which can make your mouth feel less dry.
- Avoid salty foods: Salty foods, including potato chips and deli meats, can dry out the mouth. Be careful of processed foods. Even if they don’t taste salty, instant meals, fried foods, and canned pantry staples are often high in sodium.
- Breathe through your nose: Breathing through the mouth dries out the mouth. If your nose is too congested for easy breathing, try clearing it with a saline nasal spray.
- Speak to your doctor about medications: Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications. If you suffer from dry mouth, ask your doctor whether another medication could treat your condition without making your mouth dry.
These treatment options are also ways to prevent dry mouth from recurring. Maintain a healthy oral routine to minimize developing dry mouth in the future.
If left untreated, dry mouth can have serious implications for your oral health. If you’re concerned about dry mouth and its impact on your teeth and gums find a 123Dentist member and schedule an appointment that fits your schedule.