Dry Mouth Syndrome!
Have You Heard Of It? Do You Have It?
As the baby boomers age and our life expectancy increases, more of my patients are experiencing the signs and symptoms of xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth syndrome.
A decrease in the amount of saliva our body naturally produces can have detrimental effects on our teeth and gums, not to mention make eating foods difficult and unenjoyable. It is possible, especially for younger people, not notice a problem until you have lost about half of your regular saliva flow.
What causes of dry mouth syndrome?
– Many drugs are commonly associated with dry mouth syndrome. Namely…
– Allergy Medications
– Antipsychotics/ Antidepressants
– Cancer Drugs, Chemotherapy
– Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure Medications
– Narcotics- Pain Medication
The use of medications for diagnosed ADHD in adolescents is becoming more frequent. These medications are starting to introduce patients to dry mouth syndrome effects at a much younger age than previously seen. My senior patients are now on more heart disease/ blood pressure medications and antidepressants as well as sleep aids. These can also cause dry mouth syndrome.
Dry Mouth and Your Age
Seniors naturally experience a decrease in their saliva flow. And most people over the age of 65 are taking two or more drugs daily.
Coffee, Booze and Cigarettes
All the above contribute to dry mouth syndrome. If you smoke, talk to your dentist or doctor about smoking cessation strategies. Alcohol is also dehydrating. And while caffeine is a stimulant, it also makes our whole body dry due to its dehydrating effects.
Blocked nasal passages anatomically (from naturally enlarged adenoids or tonsils that were never removed or abnormally constricted nasal passages), or from a transient cold virus force us to breath through our mouths, drying everything out.
Living in Canada, we know the toll dry air can take on our body. Our airways can similarly be dried out, creating an oral environment that mimics dry mouth.
How do I know if I have dry mouth syndrome?
Common symptoms can include: a generalized sticky, dry feeling in your mouth, increase thirst, cracked lips or sores at the corners of your mouth, dry red tongue, hoarseness, bad breath, trouble tasting your food, and an increase in the amount of plaque build up at the ends of the teeth by the gums and an increase in bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.
What can I do about Dry Mouth Syndrome?
Drinking is an instinctive way to combat mouth dryness, but be very careful not to drink juices, soda or dehydrating drinks like coffee that will only lead to an increase in cavity risk as your body’s saliva flow is already down.
Toronto tap water should be the only choice! Although water is not a substitute for saliva, it at least decreases the amount of plaque and food debris adhering to dental and soft tissue surfaces. Saliva is designed chemically to buffer the acid byproducts of the foods we eat to help prevent decay.
Visit your dentist more frequently.
Cavities will pop up faster and in hard to see places like on roots of teeth with dry mouth syndrome. Let your dentist do a thorough check a few times a year so that small lesions can be identified quickly and conservatively managed and restored.
Brush your teeth/floss more often.
Do your homework to make sure your teeth are as clean as possible to prevent plaque and food debris from hanging around. Discuss increasing at home fluoride treatments or rinses with your dentist. I like to recommend a higher fluoride concentration toothpaste or mouth rinse for my patients to use as part of their homeware routine to strengthen enamel and make it harder to decay to occur.
Watch your diet.
Frequent snacking and sugary foods and drinks will accelerate the rate of tooth decay in a dry mouth environment. Try sucking on sugarless candies, drinking plain tap water, or chewing gum with xylitol. Use a humidifier during winter and talk to your pharmacist or dentist about trying an oral lubricant to moisten the mouth before meals to make eating more enjoyable.
Wishing You Good Health!