Suffering with Dry Mouth?
Know the causes of Xerostomia and how it can affect your teeth.
Dry mouth affects 10 percent of all people, mostly women, the elderly and those taking prescription and non-prescription medications. It occurs when we have a decreased volume of saliva in our mouths. This condition can be frustrating, creating difficulty in speaking, eating and lead to anxiety, permanent mouth and throat disorders and can negatively affect a person’s life. Otherwise known as xerostomia, dry mouth can have many effects on a person’s overall health and even more serious effects on oral environment if ignored.
DON’T TAKE YOUR SALIVA FOR GRANTED
Our saliva plays a very important role in protecting our teeth from decay or cavities. Tooth decay is caused by acidity that attacks the tooth structure and forms a hole or cavity. Our saliva acts as a “buffering” solution that attempts to neutralize any acidity that is attacking the tooth structure. When there is a lack of saliva or a change in the composition of the saliva resulting in a more acidic salivary flow, then tooth decay can occur very quickly. The dentist then has to utilize more invasive techniques to restore and maintain existing tooth structure. So with the understanding that we need saliva to protect our teeth, if we lack sufficient saliva to keep our mouth moist, we develop dry mouth, or Xerostomia.
CAUSES OF DRY MOUTH?
Radiation or Chemotherapy: Radiation therapy that targets the head and neck area can directly affect and damage the cells within the salivary glands resulting in a decrease of salivary flow. Chemotherapy targets cells that reproduce more quickly, which is what is happening in a cancerous lesion. Salivary glands also reproduce cells more quickly and are therefore targeted by chemotherapy resulting in a decrease in the production of saliva and a negative change to the composition of saliva.
Medications: Many over-the-counter and prescriptions can cause dry mouth. People that take blood pressure medication, decongestants, urinary continuance medications, and medications that manage long term disorders are at risk of developing dry mouth.
Age: Dry mouth is not necessarily a natural part of aging, but as the population ages, it generally sees an increase in the number of medications that are being taken. Many of the medications that seniors are taking can directly cause dry mouth.
Some other common causes include: stress, depression, poorly controlled diabetes, anxiety disorders, stroke and Sjorgren's syndrome.
PREVENTIVE CARE TIPS
People with dry mouth need to pay special attention to preventing tooth decay and gingival infections. This can be achieved by:
• Increased attention to at home oral care
• Increase in frequency of professional hygiene cleanings for plaque removal
• Brushing with a baking soda and fluoride containing toothpaste can help to neutralize the acids in the mouth
• Stimulating salivary flow by using sugar free gum or lozenges can also be beneficial
• In some cases the dentist might recommend fluoride trays to help apply topical fluoride to specific locations within the mouth.
• Sleeping with a humidifier can help for some people as well.
If you notice your mouth is dry all the time, it is important to let your dentist know so he or she can formulate an individualized treatment plan to address it. Treating dry mouth is important because it can protect your teeth and gums from more complex and invasive treatment.
If you have any oral health questions or would like to schedule a consultation Pro Solutions Dental Group – Family, Implant & Reconstructive Dentistry – Offices of Jason C. Campbell, D.D.S. at 928-776-1208. Submit a question for future articles to Dr. Rick Farnsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.