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Remedies for Dry Mouth
Cracked lips, mouth sores or a rough tongue, dry mouth is more than just feeling thirsty. Everyone suffers from a dry mouth every once in a while. However, when dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is persistent, it can cause serious dental, and overall health problems. Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not producing enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, and finding a remedy may seem difficult. If you are not producing enough saliva, you may notice some of these dry mouth symptoms:
- A dry, sticky feeling in your mouth
- Thick, stringy saliva
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing food
- Difficulty speaking
- Dry throat and hoarseness
- Cracked lips
- Mouth sores
Dental Health and Other Effects of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, but can contribute to a multitude of health issues, especially oral health problems. Since saliva, in addition to keeping the mouth wet, works to wash away bacteria and neutralize acids, you can be at a higher risk for cavities if you suffer from sustained dry mouth. The dry environment inhibits bacterial growth, which also leads to an increase in plaque build-up, which is a disaster for your oral health as it is the perfect environment for tooth decay. This plaque build-up tends to begin at the periodontal line (gum line) and if left untreated, can bring on serious dental health problems, such as gingivitis.
Due to your mouth being so dry, the risk of encountering mouth sores and infections grows exponentially. A common fungal infection encountered by many patients who suffer from dry mouth is called candidiasis, also referred to as oral thrush. This infection can cause pain in the mouth, and make swallowing increasingly difficult. Those who wear full or partial dentures are at a higher risk of developing oral thrush.
Dry Mouth Causes
Dry mouth can be brought on by a variety of factors. Research shows that people who suffer from dry mouth often don’t mention their discomfort to their oral healthcare provider. However, this topic is one you should talk to your dentist about because they may be able to help you and provide some relief for your dry mouth before it causes more severe problems.
When experiencing a dry mouth, most people blame their hydration levels, especially if they experience dry xerostomia at night. But being dehydrated may not be the actual cause. One of the most common reasons for dry mouth is that it is a side effect of many medications, both prescription and over the counter. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, there are over 400 prescriptions and over-the-counter medications that cause xerostomia. Some of the most likely medications to cause dry mouth include antidepressants, antihistamines, diuretics, and muscle relaxants. Some other factors that can contribute to dry mouth include:
- Cancer Treatment: Chemotherapy drugs can change saliva production, and radiation for head and neck cancers may damage the salivary glands.
- Nerve Damage: Injury or surgery that causes nerve damage to the head or neck may cause dry mouth
- Tobacco use: Smoking and chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms and is bad for your dental health for a variety of reasons.
- Other health conditions: Diabetes, Sjörgen’s syndrome, or HIV/AIDS may contribute to dry mouth symptoms.
- Constant mouth breathing: If you’re waking up with a dry mouth, it is likely due to sleeping with your mouth open.
How to Soothe Dry Mouth
If you suffer from xerostomia, it is important that you manage your saliva in order to maintain your oral health. Unfortunately, relief from dry mouth is usually temporary. If you think that a medication is what causes xerostomia for you, it is best to consult your doctor. Drinking plenty of water is a tried and true way of dealing with dry mouth symptoms, as this malady can be caused by dehydration. Chewing sugarless gum, or sucking on sugar-free lozenges, especially those sweetened with xylitol may provide relief from dry mouth symptoms, as xylitol is a salivary stimulant and helps to produce excess saliva. Over the counter moisture replacements can also provide the mouth with relief, as most of them also utilize xylitol to stimulate saliva production. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco can help to relieve a dry mouth, as these only act to dry the mouth out even more. A quality mouthwash may also help, but only one without alcohol as alcohol will have a drying effect on the mouth. When dealing with the issues that arise from dry mouth, you may find relief with lip balm for dry cracked lips, and throat lozenges for throat soreness.
Oral hygiene is critical, especially for those who suffer from persistent dry mouth. It is important to brush and floss twice a day and visit the dentist regularly. Because there are so many possible reasons for dry mouth, schedule an appointment today and find some relief for your dry mouth.