Xerostomia

Dry Mouth Syndrome

Do you or someone you know suffer from a dry mouth?

A dry mouth is a complicated but common condition.  It’s medical term is xerostomia.  A dry mouth can wreck havoc on eating, chewing and even talking.  It can affect peppy grade schoolers, chatty pre-teens, high schoolers and our aging population.  There are several risk factors associated with xerostomia and they span through the generations.

Saliva upholds the well-being of your teeth, gums and mouth – so having a dry mouth shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Xerostomia is a risk factor for poor dental and oral health.

  • Less saliva makes your mouth more acidic (here is a list of acidic beverages)
  • Without saliva to neutralize the acid, your teeth can be weakened
  • Your teeth become more prone to direct attacks of bacteria
  • Food is more difficult to chew – this causes more wear and tear on your teeth
  • Teeth have difficulty remineralizing (or strengthening when attacked by bacteria), due to insufficient minerals that are found in saliva
  • In time, if a dry mouth is not addressed, you will lose your teeth to decay.

Prescription & Recreational Drug Use

The prevalence of drug use, both medicinally and recreational among American offers good reason to consider individual patient risk factors.  Whenever salivary dysfunction occurs among adults or the elderly, teenagers or young children, the risk of caries, taste reduction, sensitivity and enamel loss is present.

Certain prescription drugs may be the cause of dry mouth among patients. In particular, children who take medications to treat brain disorders.  In the United States, up to 11% of children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Almost all drugs used to manage ADHD impair salivary production and lead to xerostomia.

Antidepressants will cause xerostomia as well.  While the obvious use of antidepressants is to help manage depression, these drugs are also used to help with panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, and eating disorders.

Popular decongestants, too, may contribute to dry mouth, in addition to recreational drug use. 

Government statistics underscore the prevalence of recreational drug use among youth.  Second to alcohol and tobacco, the combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine used to treat ADHD is the most commonly abused drug among high school seniors in the US.  More than 7% of high school seniors abuse prescription painkillers, including oxycodone.  These opioid pain relievers can cause dry mouth in varying degrees.  Over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines are abused by 5% of adolescents and young adults, while 5% abuse OTC sedatives.  Marijuana is among the greatest use through all generations at 36.4%, and can also cause dry mouth.

Dry Mouth Solutions

A dry mouth may stem from causes other than drug use.  Systemic illness and mouth breathing are two examples, and both causes are found among children and adults.  When affected individuals seek treatment from Dr. Angart and our staff, mouthrinses and toothpaste as well as other adjuncts may be called on the provide relief.   If the patient is symptomatic, we will recommend some type of lubricant to help with comfort and function.

  • Sip on water to moisten the mouth – or use ice chips
  • Chew xylitol gum products 
  • Use Saliva Replacement or “Dry Mouth” Oral Care Products
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, as well as acidic foods and beverages
  • Observe proper oral hygiene
  • Visit Jeffrey L. Angart, DDS regularly (HINT** Your trusted dentist!)
  • Ask us for in-depth guidance on dealing with a dry mouth.

Proactive Dry Mouth Detection

Similar to being dehydrated, you are typically in a late stage by the time you realize symptoms.  If your saliva is foamy and not sticky like syrup, or there is trouble swallowing food without adequate moisture, you are likely to have xerostomia.  Without intervention, dry mouth can lead to harmful and often painful conditions in the oral cavity.  Thus, dry mouth needs to be detected as early as possible.  As part of our preventive approach, every patient is assessed for dry mouth via clinical examination at our office and asked about symptoms, should we suspect it.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Do I wake up with a dry mouth?
  • Do I take frequent sips of water?
  • Do I need to drink water to swallow foods while eating?
  • Do I notice dryness during the day?

We can help patients fight back against dry mouth by equipping them with care routines and products that provide immediate relief from discomfort, and guard against these effects long term.

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