Dry mouth, officially called Xerostomia, is a common condition and often temporary. However, when a dry mouth becomes chronic, it turns into a serious dental health concern.
Most dry mouth is a temporary condition caused by a case of nerves or perhaps from a night of drinking. But if the condition is chronic, then the lack of saliva will make you more susceptible to cavities and gum disease, which could lead to the need for restorative dentistry to repair damage to your teeth.
You should contact your dentist if dry mouth has become chronic in your life. A dentist can help determine the cause and help manage the symptoms to reduce the chance of dental problems. Dr. Wayne Myles, a cosmetic, restorative, and general dentistry expert in Reston offers dry mouth treatment to manage symptoms and avoid complications.
Why Is Dry Mouth a Problem?
Dry mouth occurs when you lack sufficient saliva to moisten your mouth. Saliva is important because in addition to making it easier to talk and eat, it is also your first line of defense in oral health. Saliva washes food particles out of the mouth and off teeth, which limits the growth of bacteria. Saliva also neutralizes the damaging acids produced by bacteria.
If you lack sufficient saliva, you will be more vulnerable to oral health problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, and infections in the mouth.
Signs that you lack sufficient saliva include:
- Difficulty tasting, chewing, and swallowing
- Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, or sore throat
- A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
- A dry, red tongue
- Sores in the mouth
- Cracked lips or split skin at the corners of the mouth
What Causes Dry Mouth?
There are several causes for chronic dry mouth. Among them:
- Medications. This is the most common reason for chronic dry mouth. Many prescription and non-prescription drugs reduce the flow of saliva. These include drugs that treat pain, allergies, colds, depression, anxiety, obesity, acne, diarrhea, and asthma.
- Diseases and Infections. Specific medical conditions can cause dry mouth. They include Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the glands that make saliva and tears; HIV/AIDS; Alzheimer’s disease; diabetes; rheumatoid arthritis; hypertension; and stroke.
- Medical Treatments. The glands that produce saliva can be damaged during medical treatments, such as radiation of the head and neck or chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
- Lifestyle. Some common habits can cause a dry mouth, such as smoking or chewing tobacco, which can affect saliva production. Alcohol and recreational drugs can also cause dry mouth.
How Is Dry Mouth Treated?
Treatment for dry mouth will depend on the cause and how severe your case is. If medication is making your mouth dry, you may be able to switch your medication or reduce the dosage. If it is not possible to eliminate the cause of dry mouth, you will need to manage the side effects.
Treatment focuses on:
- Increasing the flow of saliva
- Relieving symptoms by moisturizing your mouth
- Preventing oral health problems with meticulous oral care and frequent checkups
Patients with dry mouth should be monitored for early detection of oral health issues. If you are suffering from chronic dry mouth, please contact us for an appointment.