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How Does Xerostomia Affect Oral Health?

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How Does Xerostomia Affect Oral Health?

Young woman looking into the mirror and holding her lip with a sad expression on her face.

One of the most common medical conditions that dental patients suffer from is called xerostomia, or dry mouth. While it’s nothing serious, dry mouth can still cause high levels of discomfort, bad breath and difficulty eating. Xerostomia often develops after taking certain medications, recreational drug and alcohol use and the process of aging. Many times, your symptoms can be completely eliminated by changing medications or implementing mouth rinses into your daily routine to stimulate saliva flow. Find out how xerostomia affects oral health and what you can do about it with this guide!

 

The Important Role That Saliva Plays In Oral Health

When it comes to keeping our mouths wet and moist, saliva is the number one player. Saliva plays a more important role in our mouths than most people think. Some of the most important things that saliva does for us is lubricate and cleanse the oral cavity, protect the teeth from tooth decay, aid in the chewing, swallowing and digestion processes, defend the mouth from infection and enable our sense of taste. Saliva is an essential body fluid that keeps our oral cavities feeling comfortable and even performs soft tissue repair when there is damage. Saliva helps make our food softer so that it’s easier to swallow, plus it has digestive enzymes in it that help break down said food. Whenever we don’t produce enough saliva in our mouths, we can suffer from dry mouth, which makes it nearly impossible for saliva to do all of the aforementioned things that it does on a daily basis. Dry mouth occurs for a number of reasons, which makes it sometimes difficult to determine where your symptoms are coming from. However, even though dry mouth can develop quickly, it is easily treatable by your dentist or doctor. If you notice that you’re experiencing any of the following signs that we’re going to talk about, make sure to schedule an appointment for a medical evaluation so that you can nip dry mouth in the bud.

 

What Is Xerostomia?Woman sticking tongue out that is covered with cracks and fissures.

While dry mouth is the common term used by most, xerostomia is the medical term that describes a dry, scratchy mouth that makes it difficult to speak, chew and eat. Some patients have xerostomia but don’t know it because they’re not exhibiting obvious symptoms of it. Bad breath typically accompanies dry mouth due to the lack of saliva in the mouth to cleanse the oral cavity. One of the most common signs is the pooling of saliva underneath your tongue, and while it may seem contradictory that this points to dry mouth, it’s one of the most identifiable traits of it. Another symptom of xerostomia is an increased number of cavities, specifically located on the neck of the teeth near the gumline or edges of the teeth. A red tongue that has fissures lining it also points to a lack of saliva in the mouth, along with cracked lips, and both can be quite painful. Xerostomia is most often caused by certain medications, dehydration, smoking, breathing through your mouth and certain medical conditions, like Sjogren’s Syndrome or diabetes. Patients with HIV/AIDS, lymphoma and hypertension are also at a higher risk of experiencing xerostomia than other patients without these conditions. Those taking certain medications, like antihistamines, antidepressants, acne medicine, antacids, diuretics, muscle relaxants and high blood pressure medication, often exhibit signs of dry mouth, as well. While dry mouth typically doesn’t cause serious oral health effects, it can be annoying due to the sticky nature of it, causing difficulties to eat and speak well. 

 

Treating Your Dry Mouth

If you’re suffering from xerostomia and are desperate for some relief, schedule a dental checkup with your dentist so that they can identify any signs of tooth decay (and cavities) that could be causing your symptoms. Until you meet with him/her, try chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production, sip water continuously, stop smoking tobacco and limit how much caffeine you consume. Each of these factors plays a role in how severe your dry mouth symptoms are and once stopped, can usually reverse your symptoms. Another great option for xerostomia is buying a mouthwash designed to treat dry mouth, such as ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Mouthwash or Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse. These both fight against the effects of dry mouth and help prevent tooth decay, as well. Medications are typically the main cause behind xerostomia, so talk with your doctor about your symptoms and see what can be changed in your prescription so that you don’t have to needlessly suffer anymore. For added comfort, you can buy an air humidifier to place by your bed at night while you sleep. These machines put more moisture in the air and can help soothe your dry mouth during the night. You can also buy moisturizing mouth sprays that work well, and you can practice breathing through your nose (rather than through your mouth) to keep saliva from drying out. If these tips don’t work for you, make sure to visit your dentist or medical doctor for additional information and treatments that can treat severe cases of dry mouth.

 

Overcome Xerostomia With Our Help!

At Mountain Aire Dentistry, we provide our patients with the best tools and resources to overcome xerostomia and start feeling better again. We’ll conduct an in-depth analysis of your symptoms and any underlying issues that could be causing your dry mouth. If you’re tired of living saliva-free, call our office at (303) 731-7755 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Berry. Call today to end your battle with xerostomia!