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What You Need To Know About Dry Mouth

We’ve all woken up in the middle of the night and our mouth feels dry as a desert. Maybe it’s winter and the heat’s turned up, or we have a cold and are breathing through our mouth. This is normal! Just take a sip of water and go back to sleep. 

However, for 1 out of 5 adults this discomfort is part of their everyday lives. Dry mouth, also known, as "xerostomia", is an abnormal dryness of the mucous membranes in the mouth due to reduced saliva flow. 

It may not seem like a problem – but saliva is important to maintaining our oral and overall health in several ways:

  • It acts as a buffer to neutralize acidic in our mouth, helping to prevent cavities 
  • Saliva helps in our immune response by protecting the oral cavity from bacteria 
  • Saliva supports proper speech and articulation 
  • It delivers calcium, phosphate,fluoride and other components essential to our oral health 
  • Saliva flow helps us digest our food by aiding in our chewing and swallowing 
  • Saliva protects exposed root surfaces 

Causes of Dry Mouth 

There are several possible causes of dry mouth or xerostomia. It's a common side effect of many medications. It can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, or symptom of certain auto-immune diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease or Sjögren's syndrome. People who've had an injury or surgery to their head or neck area may have nerve damage that results in dry mouth. Chewing or smoking tobacco also increases the risk of dry mouth symptoms.

Medications that Can Cause Dry Mouth 

  • Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs 
  • Medications for lowering blood pressure 
  • Allergy and cold medications — antihistamines and decongestants 
  • Chemotherapy drugs 
  • Medications to alleviate pain 
  • Drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease 

Is My Mouth Just “Dry” or Do I Have “Xerostomia”

Xerostomia can range from mildly irritating to quite uncomfortable.  In addition to a lack of saliva, here are a few of the other symptoms that may alert you and to a potential problem:

  • Chronically bad breath 
  • Splitting or cracking of the lips 
  • Taste disorders 
  • Fungal infections in the mouth, such as thrush 
  • Painful or inflamed tongue, or frequent tongue ulcers 
  • More frequent tooth decay, gum disease and plaque 
  • Problems speaking, swallowing and chewing 
  • Difficulty wearing dentures e.g. problems with denture retention or denture sores 
  • Infections in your salivary glands 
  • Chronic sore throat or the sensation of having a burning mouth 

Treating Dry Mouth

At Jeff M. Morrison & Associates, DDS, our approach to treating dry mouth is two-fold: find ways to increase saliva production and eliminate specific things that are likely to increase dryness in the mouth. 

If you think you have xerostomia, we encourage you schedule an appointment with Dr. Morrison to have your condition assessed. He will review your health history, including your medications. He will also monitor your oral health and provide suggestions on improving your saliva flow – from simple home remedies to prescription medications.

Home Remedies for Dry Mouth

Here are a few “mouth-watering” tips you can also try on your own:

  • Carry water wherever you go 
  • Quit smoking or chewing tobacco 
  • Avoid oral rinses that contain alcohol or peroxide. 
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candies that contain xylitol to activate your saliva production. 
  • Limit your consumption of caffeine, carbonated beverages (including seltzer and sparkling waters), and alcoholic beverages. 
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and use dental floss to remove food particles that get stuck between your teeth. 
  • Use oral rinses that contain xylitol. Certain gels and oral sprays are equally helpful. Biotene is one over-the-counter brand that makes products designed to treat dry mouth. 
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to a bedroom, which may help reduce dry mouth symptoms that develop during sleep. 
  • Make sure you get your teeth checked and cleaned twice a year to to identify dental problems early and treat them before they turn into something more serious. 

Concerned you have chronic dry mouth? Give us a call at (919) 755-3450 or request an appointment online.  Xerostomia is more than a minor discomfort – it can have a real impact on your health. We hope this information helps!