Help on fixing a persistent dry mouthMarch 9, 2020 9:15 am
It’s normal to have a dry mouth from time to time – maybe you didn’t drink enough water, you’ve just been talking a lot, or you’re feeling anxious about something. However, if you feel uncomfortable all the time and the feeling just won’t go away, you might be suffering from a medical condition known as ‘dry mouth’.
- What is it?
Dry mouth, formally known as xerostomia, happens when your glands in your mouth aren’t producing enough saliva. You may experience a sticky or sore mouth, a sore throat, or problems in eating and swallowing. Other unwanted side effects include dry lips, a dry tongue and bad breath. If you wear dentures they may feel uncomfortable too – as if they don’t fit properly. While dry mouth in itself is an inconvenience, complications from the condition can be a bigger problem.
- What it means for your teeth
If you suffer from dry mouth thenyou are more vulnerable to tooth decay, gum disease and mouth infections like thrush. For a start, without saliva,your mouth can’t naturally rinse away food particles. Saliva is vital in the battle against bacteria, which use food to create acid that damages teeth. Normally this process is kept in check by the neutralising effect of saliva, which also restricts bacteria growth. Without it, bacteria are able to multiply unchecked, and over time plaque is formed on teeth. This can start a downward spiral of bacteria growth, plaque formation, and tooth damage and decay.
- What causes it
Many types of medication can cause dry mouth. Antihistamines are common culprits. Chemotherapy can also have a temporary effect on saliva production, because it unfortunately damages glands. If you have a cold and your nose is blocked,continually breathing through your mouth can trigger it– and decongestants can have a drying effect too. More often than not however, it’s a part of getting older. That’s either because you develop it as a condition on its own, or dry mouth is a side effect of medications prescribed to treat something else, such as high blood pressure. More rarely, dry mouth is a side effect on a vitamin A and riboflavin deficiency. Eggs, milk, natural yoghurt and lean meat are all good sources of both.
- How to fix it
Drink more fluids – preferably water. Aim for two litres a day for women, and three for men. Taking regular small sips is the best way to increase your intake without noticing it too much. Or suck on ice chips, which also alleviates symptoms of dry mouth. Sugar-free gum and sweets can help, as chewing stimulates saliva production. If they contain xylitol that’s a bonus, as xylitol helps protect against tooth cavities. If you snore, try nasal strips which help open up your airways. A humidifier might also help ease the condition, particularly at night when you’re trying to sleep. Your dentist might recommend an oral rinse, or an artificialsaliva spray. If dry mouth is very bad, your dentist might also suggest fluoride trays to wear overnight and help protect your teeth. essentially, the only way to be rid of dry mouth is to solve the underlying condition. You should see your dentist for help in identifying the problem.
- What to avoid
First of all, avoid alcohol and caffeine. These both dry out the mouth.Smoking is another bad habit, which actually reduces the amount of saliva you produce. Sugary or acidic food isn’t a good idea as it could worsen the tooth decay problem.Spicy food can also be painful if you have a sore mouth, so you might want to skip it.
- Other ways to protect your mouth
If you have dry mouth then you’ll need to make sure you have a great dental routine. Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss regularly. This will all help compensate for the job saliva would normally do in cleaning your mouth naturally. Choose an alcohol-free mouthwash for comfort. And, see a dentist every six months. The dentist and the hygienist together can help keep problem-causing tartar and plaque to the minimum.
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