Ever heard of “Xerostomia”? Probably not. It’s best known as “dry mouth” and is due to an inadequate flow of saliva. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect caused by gland problems, mouth breathing, or certain medications (allergy antihistamines, cold decongestants, pain killers, and others). It is also a side effect of diseases or medical problems such as Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Xerostomia or dry mouth is especially prevalent in old age individuals due to the number of medications consumed. Keeping a healthy mouth as we age becomes difficult. We go through a second round of cavity susceptibility, often attributed to naturally-receding gums and worn-out fillings. However, medications are one of the most common reasons for an increase in cavities in seniors.
Since dry mouth prevents saliva from performing its natural job of rinsing away harmful bacteria between meals, an increase in plaque is common in older adults which can result in rapid tooth decay.
There are a few ways to help lessen the side effects of dry mouth, especially those caused by medication.
- Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, like spray or mouthwash.
- Drink more water.
- Use lozenges or sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
- Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air.
- Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths such as coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and acidic fruit juices.
- Ask your physician if you can adjust the dosage or take a different medication.
We also mentioned Sjögren’s Syndrome, a disorder of the immune system identified by two common symptoms: dry eyes and a dry mouth.
With Sjögren’s syndrome, the body mistakenly attacks the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the eyes and mouth, resulting in decreased production of tears and saliva. Since saliva plays an extremely important role in oral health, the decreased flow of saliva common with Sjögren’s syndrome can pose serious threats to your oral health.
While a person can develop Sjögren’s at any age, it’s most commonly found in women between the ages of 40 and 50.
Experiencing dry mouth? Talk to us about it at your next appointment.