We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths and to digest the foods we eat. Saliva can also prevent infection by controlling bacteria in the mouth. Unfortunately, as a side effect from taking some medications, and other diseases and treatments, people can develop what is called dry mouth. It’s an uncomfortable condition that can cause problems for your teeth and gums.
What causes dry mouth?
Dry mouth can be caused by a variety of things:
- Side effect from medications — Many prescription and nonprescription drugs, including drugs to treat depression, anxiety, allergies, colds (antihistamines and decongestants), acne, diarrhea, obesity, hypertension, epilepsy, incontinence, asthma, and Parkinson’s can have a side effect of giving the user dry mouth. Muscle relaxers and sedatives also can do the same.
- Side effect from certain diseases or infections — Various medical conditions can have dry mouth as a side effect: diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and mumps.
- Damage during medical treatment — If the salivary glands are damaged during treatment for another medical condition, this can lead to dry mouth. This is usually the result of radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
- Dehydration — Conditions that lead to dehydration can cause dry mouth. These are things like diarrhea, blood loss, burns, excessive sweating, and fever.
These are the common symptoms of dry mouth:
• A dry feeling in the throat
• A sticky mouth
• Burning or tingling in the mouth, especially on the tongue
• A dry, red, raw tongue
• Sore throat
• Dry nasal passages
• Bad breath
• Sores in the mouth
• Split corners of the mouth and lips
Problems caused by dry mouth
Besides the uncomfortable symptoms above, dry mouth can damage your teeth and gums. The lack of saliva raises the risk of tooth decay, gingivitis, and mouth infections. Wearing dentures with dry mouth is almost impossible.
How we treat dry mouth
At the Doctors of Dental Medicine our goal in treating dry mouth is to increase the flow of saliva. First, we’ll try and manage the underlying cause, if we can. Second, we make sure the lack of saliva isn’t leading to tooth decay or gingivitis. Next, we may recommend the use of artificial saliva products, which come in a rinse or spray. There are also many toothpastes, mouthwashes, and moisturizing gels specially formulated for dry mouth. We may even prescribe Salagen, a saliva-increasing drug.
If you feel that your mouth is exceptionally dry, you may be suffering from dry mouth. Give us a call at 732-329-3113 and let’s take a look.