Saliva plays an integral part in our overall health and wellbeing. Saliva is needed to keep our mouths moistened, cleanse our mouths, and aid in digesting food. It also has a vital role in preventing infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth.
When you don’t make enough saliva, your mouth becomes dry and uncomfortable. This condition is known clinically as xerostomia.
At Dr. Thomas Tang’s practice, we offer restorative and general dentistry services to maintain and improve oral health. If a dry mouth is causing dental damage, contact our Brookfield, WI practice to learn how we can prevent dental problems and treat a dry mouth.
Causes of Dry Mouth
There are several factors that can lead to dry mouth. Some of these include:
- A side effect of medications: Many prescription and over-the-counter medications used to treat depression, anxiety, allergies, pain, obesity, pain, acne, epilepsy, hypertension, diarrhea, nausea, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, psychotic disorders, and urinary incontinence can trigger dry mouth symptoms.
- A side effect of illness and infection: Medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, anemia, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, hypertension, mumps, stroke, Sjögren syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease are linked to chronic dry mouth. Radiation for cancer treatment can also lead to xerostomia.
- Nerve damage: Nerve damage to the neck and head area from an injury or surgery can result in dry mouth.
- Dehydration: Fever, excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, blood loss, and burns can all lead to dehydration and xerostomia.
- Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco can hinder saliva production and exacerbate dry mouth symptoms.
- Mouth breathing: Breathing with an open mouth can dry out the oral soft tissues.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Patients suffering from xerostomia may experience a wide range of symptoms. Common signs include:
- A sticky and dry sensation on the inside of your mouth
- Excessive thirst
- Internal mouth sores, sores, or split skin at the corners of the mouth
- Dry throat
- A tongue that feels dry and raw
- Problems with speech, tasting, chewing, or swallowing
- Smacking sound while talking
- A burning sensation in the mouth and on the tongue
- Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, and sore throat
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Extensive tooth decay
- Candidiasis of the mouth (fungal infection)
When to See a Dentist
Those experiencing the signs of dry mouth should see their dentist right away for a dental examination, especially if they are genetically prone to gum disease and tooth decay.
A dry mouth can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontitis is a severe infection of the gums caused by bacteria (plaque and tartar) that has accumulated on your teeth and gums. The bones and teeth will become damaged if left untreated. A dry mouth cannot produce the saliva needed to flush out these bacteria.
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontitis, and is characterized by tenderness and swelling in the gums. You may also notice your gums will bleed just by brushing or flossing your teeth. As the disease progresses, the gums will recede away from the teeth. As the connective tissue that supports your teeth is damaged, your teeth can begin to fall out.
Your health care provider may also need to be involved to determine if there is an underlying health condition that must be addressed first.
Treatment Options for Dry Mouth
Because chronic dry mouth can develop for many different reasons, treatment options can vary significantly. Here are some possible options both your dentist and health care provider may consider:
- Treat the cause of dry mouth
- Eliminate medications that contribute to dry mouth
- Use prescribed medications to increase saliva production
- Participate in regular oral hygiene and dental care
- Ask your doctor about saliva substitutes
- Sip sugarless drinks throughout the day
- Chew gum that contains xylitol to help stimulate saliva flow
- Apply petroleum jelly to lips to relieve drying or cracking
- Use a cold-air humidifier at night
- Practice meticulous oral hygiene
- Avoid sugary or acidic foods and beverages
Medications that cannot be substituted should be taken in the morning instead of the evening. Nighttime dry mouth increases your chances for cavities and decay. If at all possible, avoid placing medications under the tongue and drink water before and after swallowing tablets.
Contact Us to Learn More
You do not have to suffer from dry mouth, and it is not a normal part of aging. Saliva production is an essential part of keeping us healthy for many years to come. Contact us online or call us at 262-207-4867.