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Managing Severe Dry Mouth

By Pamela Li, in Articles, on April 20, 2014 | Comments (0)

Ottawa dentistryOttawa, Ontario – You might not stop to think about the effect saliva has on your mouth and oral health, at least not until you experience a lack of it. Saliva is needed to moisten and clean our mouths and assists in digestion. Saliva can also assist in oral health by washing away harmful bacteria.

For geriatric dentistry patients, and patients with certain conditions or who are on certain medications, experiencing cottonmouth might be a common occurrence. Dr. Pamela Li regularly treats patients who suffer from xerostomia and has some tips for understanding and living with it.

“Severe dry mouth can be extremely annoying,” says Dr. Li, who is an Ottawa dentist. “Your mouth might feel like it is burning all the time, or you can experience difficulty speaking or swallowing. It can even cause your face to swell and can disturb your sleep habits. But there is good news – there are ways dentists can help ease your xerostomia.”

Xerostomia can be much more than annoying – if left untreated, it can disrupt your entire life. Dentists see an increase in dental caries in patients who suffer from dry mouth, and there is a higher risk of infection, as well as an increase in plaque formation. For some patients, dry mouth can be caused by certain medications they may be taking and for others it can be an unwelcome side effect of another medical condition they have. It is extremely important to discuss your complete medical history, including any medication or herbal supplements you may take, with your dentist. That way, the dentist has a clear picture of your overall health, and can understand what may be causing your dental issues.

There are many medications that can cause xerostomia. Both prescription and over the counter medications can cause the condition. If you take medications to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, colds, obesity, acne, hypertension, diarrhea, nausea, psychotic disorders, incontinence, or asthma, you may suffer from dry mouth. Muscle relaxers and sedatives can also lead to the condition. Discuss any medications, or changes in medications, with your dentist.

Additionally, there are some medical conditions that can lead to xerostomia. AIDS and HIV patients regularly suffer from the condition, as do patients undergoing radiation therapy. Bone marrow transplant patients and patients in renal dialysis or with chronic active hepatitis may also suffer from dry mouth. Diabetics also routinely suffer from it.

“There are so many medications and conditions that can also have an effect on your mouth,” says Dr. Li. “Our bodies are so intricately related that it is so important to keep your dentist apprised of other things going on in your medical life. You may not realize that your periodontal disease or increase in cavities is a result of another medical condition that has led to your dry mouth, but your dentist will.”
Symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky or dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, sores in the mouth, a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth or on the tongue, a dry and raw tongue, hoarseness, bad breath and difficulty in chewing, swallowing and speaking. Additionally, dry mouth increases the risk of periodontal disease, tooth decay and mouth infections such as thrush.

The good news is, there are several options to combat dry mouth for dental patients. Dr. Li recommends Oral Balance Moisturizing Gel or Liquid most often. The moisturizing gel is best for nighttime use while the liquid is for daytime use.

There are also saliva stimulant products that can assist in relieving dry mouth. Dentiva, OraMoist, Sal-Ese, Smart Mouth Mints and Xylemelts can provide temporary relief for sufferers of dry mouth. SalivaSure tablets are the most highly recommended as they have no adverse reactions or drug interactions.

The best toothpaste to use is Biotene as it is specially formulated for dry mouth sufferers.  It is very gentle and does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, an irritant commonly used in toothpastes as a foaming agent.  It has a mild flavor and also contains fluoride, which is important for decay prevention.

It is important to sip cool water throughout the day and let ice chips melt in your mouth to keep the mouth moistened.  If it is difficult to swallow food because of the dryness, try drinking 2% or whole milk with your meals.  The fat content in the milk moisturizes the mouth and helps with swallowing.

Avoid caffeinated beverages because caffeine is a major cause of dry mouth. Use a cool air humidifier in the bedroom. Start the humidifier one to two hours before bedtime and let it run all night.

Try to avoid alcohol and alcohol containing mouthwashes as alcohol can irritate oral tissues. Suck on sugar free candy or chew sugar free gum to stimulate saliva production.  Look for products that contain Xylitol, a sugar substitute that does not cause cavities and may even help prevent cavities. Acidic candies and foods can also a cause sore mouth, so avoid those.

For dry lips, use hydrous lanolin USP (Lansinoh) or Banana Boat Aloe with vitamin E lip balm. Chronic use of Vaseline is drying and should be avoided.  If possible, sleep on your side to help avoid mouth breathing.

The best thing for you to do, however, is schedule an appointment with your dentist to determine what course of action may be needed to help your condition. Be prepared for your dental visit by writing down any symptoms you have been experiencing, including any that you may think are unrelated. Write down any personal information that could be contributing to your condition, including recent stresses or life changes. Keep an accurate list of all medications, vitamins, supplements and even over the counter medications you are taking.

If you believe you suffer from xerostomia, now is the time to visit your dentist. While you may think your dry mouth is just annoying, it could be doing permanent damage to your teeth and gums. Schedule a visit with your dentist today and get relief before any more damage is done.

© 2014 Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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