Ask the Dentist – Why Do I Have a Dry Mouth

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Ask the Dentist – Why Do I Have a Dry Mouth?

-by Dr Nicole Andersen

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition usually associated with a low functioning
salivary gland. With a lower salivary flow you may notice that in addition to your mouth
feeling dry most of the time, you experience difficulty swallowing, tasting and even
speaking. For some people, cracked and dry lips, mouth sores, a dry tongue, and even
bad breath are signs that you may be suffering from xerostomia.

There are over 400 medications that can cause xerostomia. As the number of
medications in a person increases, the likelihood of developing xerostomia increases. In
addition, autoimmune disease, chronic disease, and chemotherapy and radiation
therapy are all possible causes of dry mouth.

Tooth decay and infections in the oral cavity can develop with xerostomia. Adequate
saliva flow helps to moisten and cleanse the oral cavity and can help prevent the
breakdown of the enamel, which can then develop in cavities on the tooth structure. The
following can help maintain the health of the oral cavity.

1. Keeping up with twice per year dental visits where a fluoride varnish can be applied to the teeth.
2. Brushing and flossing twice per day while using a prescription strength toothpaste
3. Routine radiographs to evaluate for the presence of cavities.
4. Sipping on water or sugarless drinks
5. Humidifier use at night
6. Avoiding sticky, sugary foods which can increase the risk for cavities
7. Sucking on sugar-free candy, or chewing sugar-free gum
8. Avoiding mouth rinses with alcohol that may act as an irritant