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Dry Mouth: What Causes it and How to Treat It

Dry Mouth: What Causes it and How to Treat It
Individuals of all ages can suffer from xerostomia, a condition more commonly known as “dry mouth.” Dry mouth is a direct result of decreased salivary flow inside the mouth. Saliva does more than just keep the mouth moist; it helps to digest food, neutralizes acid to decrease the risk of tooth decay and cleanses the mouth of bacteria and food debris. Affecting 10 percent of the total population, dry mouth is not only uncomfortable but can cause harm to the teeth and gums over time, if left untreated. Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa dentist, is here to tell you what causes dry mouth and how you can treat it.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Did you know, anyone can experience dry mouth? You may have gotten up to speak before a crowd and really needed a drink of water. Sometimes general stress or nervousness can cause dry mouth, but the more harmful effects of dry mouth become a problem when an individual has symptoms all or most of the time. These symptoms can include a cracked, sticky, or pasty tongue that may prevent an individual from tasting food or speaking clearly. The condition can also cause a burning or sore feeling inside the mouth that may include mouth sores. Dry mouth sufferers also may have trouble chewing or swallowing, which can decrease their ability to ingest necessary nutrients. If this sounds like you, keep reading.

(Source: Getty Images)

How to Treat Dry Mouth – At-Home Treatment

Treating dry mouth can reduce the likelihood of developing mouth sores, gum disease, oral thrush and tooth decay. Dr. Jaleel suggests the following general approaches to help treat dry mouth:

  • Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to stimulate salivary glands
  • Drink water regularly throughout the day
  • Use over-the-counter artificial saliva
  • Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night

Stimulating the salivary glands with sugar-free gum or candy is a useful treatment, if your salivary glands or the nerves that serve them are not affected. Since some causes of dry mouth simply reduce salivary production, stimulation will help increase the overall moisture level in your mouth.

Some dry-mouth sufferers wake up in the middle of the night with a sticky or dry feeling in their mouths, or even a feeling like the back of their throat is too dry to breathe. If you experience these symptoms, it could be because you are breathing through your mouth as you sleep. To alleviate this unpleasant situation, keep a glass of water bedside and run a humidifier in your bedroom. This is particularly helpful if you live in an arid climate. Drinking plenty of water can also keep your oral tissues moist throughout the day, which is also very important in dry climates.

(Source: BigStock Photos)

Avoiding certain foods and habits can also help to alleviate dry mouth. Make the following changes in diet and lifestyle if you suffer from xerostomia:

  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine
  • Use only alcohol-free mouthwash

Regular hygiene is also important to keep your mouth healthy, control acid levels and reduce side effects of xerostomia, such as gingivitis and bad breath. At the end of the day, make sure you are following Dr. Jaleel and our dental hygienists’ advice on proper dental care.

Dry Mouth Treatment from Your Doctor

If these methods do not provide sufficient relief, your doctor might prescribe medication to help your salivary glands function more efficiently. Prescription medications are often used to treat patients with underlying medical conditions that reduce saliva flow. These conditions include Sjögren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, and rhematoid arthritis.

Numerous medications cause dry mouth as a side effect. If you’ve just started a new medication and are suddenly noticing dryness, consult your doctor. Never change your prescription medication dosage without consulting with your doctor first.