By Dentist Raleigh NC Dr Thomas E Cooke DDS
Many people at some point in their life experience an extreme dry sensation in their mouth called dry mouth. The technical medical term is called xerostomia. This can be very uncomfortable for many reasons. It is basically a decrease in the saliva production. It affects millions of people in the United States. The elderly and women are more affected. Saliva aids in the function of taste, speech, swallowing, and digesting foods. The lack of saliva disrupts everyday life in a big way. The lack of saliva can also be a major reason why people get tooth decay. It can cause something called burning mouth syndrome. Low saliva production can cause denture patients to have great difficulty wearing their dentures. There are over 400 medications known to cause dry mouth and because of this the elderly population can have an increase in tooth decay due to their new medication and not have awareness of this tooth problem until it is too late. There are many products on the market that actually stimulate the production of saliva and give some help to remedy this condition.
• Saliva is vital to many body processes
Saliva is important in allowing us to swallow, it helps our taste buds on our tongue function properly, it allows us to speak, and it plays a critical role in the digestion process. Without the correct amount of saliva, all these body processes will not function properly. Saliva is the main regulator of acidity in the mouth. When saliva is low, bacterial plaque builds up and cavities quickly form. Saliva is a constant cleansing mechanism for the mouth.
• Causes of dry mouth
Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications as a side effect, radiation to the head and neck, and many medical conditions. There are over 400 medications that cause dry mouth. You can ask your pharmacist to look up which of your medications might cause this if you are experiencing dry mouth. Cancer patients that receive head and neck radiation may experience dry mouth. If you are a cancer patient and are having head and neck radiation, you should see your dentist for some advice on dry mouth help. Seasonal allergies sometimes cause people to breathe through their mouths when they sleep and this causes dry mouth.
• Ways to help dry mouth
There are many products that have been found to help dry mouth. There are very effective moisturizing mouth washes and mouth sprays that increase the saliva count up to 2 hours which is very helpful during the day. There are also moisturizing gels and chewing gum that have been found to work. No Sugar hard candy has been found to increase saliva. People should drink lots of water. Chewing sugarless gum is very helpful.
• Dry mouth causes tooth decay
It has been found that many people will experience and increase in tooth decay related to dry mouth. The bacteria that are responsible for the acid attack on teeth thrive in the dry mouth environment due to the lack of natural cleansing of the saliva. Sugarless candy with xylitol has been found to be very helpful.
• How to prevent tooth decay from dry mouth
There are several products that have been developed to strengthen teeth to prevent cavities from dry mouth. Prescription toothpastes, mouth rinses, and varnishes with high amounts of fluoride have been found to be very helpful in fighting off this problem. A visit to your dentist is the best step to getting a prescription for one of these products. If a person has a dry mouth problem, they should alter their diet to low acid foods. Also, the foods high in sugar should be avoided.