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The Dangers of Dry Mouth

Craig Goldin DDS Jul 12, 2014

Elderly couple outdoorsNot surprisingly, dry mouth is a condition often recognized by dentists during a checkup or dental examination. Commonly called “cotton mouth” due to the pasty, dry feeling it creates in the oral cavity, dry mouth is caused by a lack of natural saliva. The condition is not only uncomfortable and unhealthy, but it can increase the risk for cavities, gum disease, oral bacteria, and oral infection. For occasional dry mouth, chewing gum or drinking water may alleviate the problem. If you think you have chronic dry mouth, you should seek diagnosis and treatment. At the Cosmetic Dentistry Institute, serving the greater Troy and Birmingham area, we offer restorative dentistry services, as well as dry mouth treatment.

Dangers of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth increases the risk for plaque buildup and tooth decay, because saliva naturally cleanses the mouth of food debris, acids, and bacteria. Saliva also helps balance the pH of the mouth by neutralizing harmful acids that erode tooth enamel. A person experiencing dry mouth may find eating and speaking difficult, and bad breath may pose a problem, as well.

Causes of Dry Mouth

People experience chronic, clinical dry mouth, known as xerostomia, when the glands that make saliva do not function properly. Certain medicines have side effects that can cause dry mouth, as they prevent the salivary glands from making enough saliva. If you have been exposed to radiation, such as during a cancer treatment, the salivary glands might have become damaged. Diseases such as AIDS/HIV and Alzheimer’s can result in dry mouth, as can nerve damage, smoking, and using methamphetamines. Though rare, an immune deficiency condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome causes both dry mouth and dry eyes. Usually, Sjogren’s syndrome is treated with medication.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

If you experience any of these symptoms, discuss them with your dentist at your next visit.

  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Stickiness in the mouth
  • Burning of soft oral tissues
  • Difficulty eating and speaking
  • Cracked lips
  • Mouth sores
  • High level of plaque and cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Other oral infections

Treatment of Dry Mouth

If your condition is not xerostomia, but just occasional dry mouth, drinking water and chewing sugarless gum may provide some relief. In addition, refrain from drinking caffeinated beverages, eating sticky foods, and smoking.

Should you have xerostomia, the simple solutions above may not be sufficient treatment. Your physician or dentist may suggest synthetic saliva or special mouthwash, which can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy. Certain medications to increase saliva production may be prescribed, as well. In addition, your dentist might suggest supplemental fluoride treatments and/or a chlorhexidine mouthwash.

Medication-related dry mouth should be addressed with your prescribing physician. In some cases, alternate medications may be prescribed.

Solutions for Dry Mouth

You don’t have to life with the pain and aggravation dry mouth causes. For more information about dry mouth and how Drs. Craig and Marcy Goldin at the Cosmetic Dentistry Institute can help you achieve excellent dental health, schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience

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