Dry mouth - also known as xerostomia or cottonmouth - occurs when your salivary glands cannot or don’t produce enough saliva. Dry mouth is more prevalent in the aging population. Symptoms include cracked lips, a rough tongue, bad breath, sticky saliva, and mouth sores. Dry mouth is not a serious medical condition, but it can be a symptom of an underlying medical issue. It may also lead to complications such as tooth decay.
Saliva is an integral part of the digestion process because it helps to moisten and break down food. It also helps to maintain proper dental health to protect your mouth against tooth decay and gum disease.
Causes Of Dry Mouth
- Dehydration from insufficient fluids is the primary cause of dry mouth.
- Exercising in the heat can cause your salivary glands to dry up because your bodily fluids are needed elsewhere.
- If your dry mouth is temporarily, it can stem from stress or nerves, such as speaking in front of a crowd or giving an important presentation.
- Many medications such as diuretics, antidepressants, pain medications, and antihistamines can cause xerostomia.
- Although dry mouth is not a common part of aging, older adults tend to take more medications which can contribute to the condition.
- A common cold can block your nose which makes you breathe excessively through your mouth leading to dehydration This is particularly bad if you sleep with your mouth open, or snore which causes dry mouth while you sleep.
- Excessive alcohol use can also cause your mouth to dry out and can make it hard to keep your mouth moist. Alcohol acts as a diuretic.
- Tobacco use increases the risk of dry mouth.
- Chronic cases of dry mouth can be a sign of a serious health condition. Many autoimmune diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and AIDS can cause xerostomia.
- Individuals undergoing chemotherapy or radiation for cancer commonly deal with dry mouth during their treatment. Radiotherapy to the head and neck can damage the salivary glands and chemotherapy can alter the nature of saliva and the amount produced.
- Injury to the neck or head candamage the salivary glands.
Your NHS Dentist in St Albans can help find the root cause of your dry mouth and help you treat and prevent the condition.
Effects Of Dry Mouth
- Saliva washes bacteria and food particles from your teeth and helps to neutralize harmful acids. Without your saliva as a natural defense, plaque can build up at the base of your teeth making you susceptible to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.
- Saliva loss also impairs your tooth’s natural ability to remineralize weak tooth enamel.
- Bad breath - also known as halitosis - is also caused by xerostomia. Saliva helps to naturally cleanse your mouth which can remove food particles that can cause bad odors. Dry mouth that occurs naturally during sleep leads to morning breath.
- Dry mouth can also lead to thrush which is a fungal infection in the mouth.
- Individuals who frequently experience dry mouth are prone to a condition called burning mouth syndrome.
- Inadequate saliva also interferes with your tasting abilities.
- It can also affect how well your gums secure your dentures.
- Dry mouth can adversely impact your speech, cause a sore throat or hoarseness, and present problems with chewing and swallowing your food.
How To Prevent Dry Mouth
There are many ways to keep your mouth lubricated and prevent the symptoms of dry mouth.
- Keep hydrated by sipping non-carbonated sugar-free drinks.
- Chew sugar-free gum because it contains xylitol which stimulates saliva production.
- Use an antibacterial and alcohol-free mouthwash daily to help reduce oral bacteria that can cause dry mouth.
- Do not wear your dentures while sleeping.
- Eat crunchy vegetables like carrots that can stimulate saliva production.
- Breathe through your nose.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom which can reduce symptoms that develop during sleep.
- Visit your dentist bi-yearly to help monitor your oral health.
High Oaks Dental Practice is a private and NHS Dental Practice in St Albans. Using the latest technologies, High Oaks Dental provides a wide range of dental treatments with all a comfort and caring manner. To achieve a confident smile, visit our website.