Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a condition where the mouth feels ‘dry’ and there does not seem to be enough saliva. Dry mouth is a condition that affects many people. Saliva is important for the health and well-being of our mouths—without it, speaking and eating become difficult, the mouth does not feel fresh and may have an unpleasant taste and odor, and dental disease can develop very quickly.
 

Ask

If you have enough saliva

 

Tell

Your dentist all the medications and supplements you are taking and all other aspects of your medical history

 

Do

Pay particular attention to your oral hygiene

Use milder, more gentle-flavored toothpastes and rinses

Use sugar-free or Xylitol gum to stimulate saliva production help keep your mouth moist

 

Remember

Dry mouth can lead to increased dental disease. See your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.

 

 

Click on a question for more Information

My mouth feels dry. I don’t seem to have enough saliva.

Dry mouth affects many people. The symptoms include:
  • a feeling of dryness,
  • difficulty eating, swallowing, and speaking, and
  • possible alterations in taste.
Dry mouth is a result of the salivary glands either not producing enough volume of saliva, or producing saliva that has changed to a thicker and less watery consistency.

There is also a condition where enough saliva is produced, but the mouth still feels dry—this is known as xerostomia, and is often a side-effect of many common medications.

Dry mouth affects one’s quality of life due to the difficulties encountered in speech and chewing and swallowing food. However, it can also affect oral health, as normal healthy saliva bathes the teeth in minerals and contains antimicrobial agents that inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. It also has an important benefit of keeping the mouth fresh through a natural cleansing and flushing action that removes food debris, microorganisms, and dead cells shed naturally from the lining of the mouth. If your mouth feels dry, consult your dentist.

What causes dry mouth?

The most common cause of dry mouth is medications. There are over 400 different prescription and over-the-counter medications with known side-effects that may alter the function of your salivary glands. Often, taking only one of these medications will make little noticeable difference, but two or more are much more likely to alter the quantity and quality of your saliva.

Other causes include an auto-immune disorder known as Sjögren’s Syndrome, which includes not only dry mouth, but also dry eyes. Radiation treatment for cancers of the head and neck region is also a cause of dry mouth.

As dry mouth can lead to an increased risk of dental caries and gum disease, consult your dentist to assess the condition, its cause, and possible relief of symptoms. If medications are one of the causes, it may be possible to change to similar drugs with the same therapeutic benefits but with a lesser effect on your salivary glands.

How can I relieve the symptoms of dry mouth?

If you think your mouth is dry, consult your dentist or dental hygienist so they can check the situation and recommend some additional preventive therapies, and possibly prescribe medication to make your mouth more comfortable. Simple steps to take yourself include:

Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing stimulates the saliva glands
Take frequent and small sips of water. Too much water, however, can be a disadvantage as it rinses away any natural lubricants that the salivary glands may have produced
Avoid alcohol-containing mouth rinses; the alcohol causes dryness and often gives a burning sensation on the dry tissues
Avoid all tobacco use
Try dry mouth products—they often contain lubricants and have gentle flavors that do not ‘burn’
Use a room humidifier to help relieve night dryness
Apply glycerin or lanolin to your lips

For help in preventing dental problems associated with dry mouth:

  • Seek the advice of your dentist or dental hygienist.
  • Take extra oral hygiene care at home to control caries development. Brush thoroughly at least twice a day with a high quality toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and clean between the teeth with an interdental brush or dental floss at least once a day. Look for gentle flavored toothpastes, as strong flavors can leave a burning sensation.
  • Use a fluoride mouth rinse before bed to protect your teeth while sleeping.
 

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