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Dry Mouth / Xerostomia


Xerostomia can happen for a variety of reasons and the results can be devastating to teeth and to your way of life.


Causes of xerostomia:

  1. Many, many different medications cause dry mouth:  This is the most common cause.

  2. Sjogren’s syndrome:  Also causes dry eyes and can affect the skin and other organs

  3. Mouth breathing: Can be caused by restricted nasal breathing, tooth position or by many other causes.   The net result can still be detrimental to the teeth and gums.

  4. Radiation treatment that passes through salivary gland tissue which is in the field of exposure.

  5. Unknown causes:


Results of Xerostomia:

  1. As the saliva is reduced, the bacteria become concentrated in the remaining saliva and this can increase the acid attack on the teeth.  The cleansing action of saliva flowing over the teeth bringing fresh antibodies is reduced which can also increase cavity rate. We see an increased cavity rate on the roots of teeth in older people who have medicine induced dry mouth.  The root surface of the teeth is softer than the enamel.   This root surface is more likely to be exposed into the mouths of older people than younger people but this is not a hard and fast rule.

  2. Mouth breathers will have red, irritated gums in the front teeth from airflow drying the saliva and concentrating the bacteria.

  3. Saliva contains bacteria, antibodies, lubricating sugars, good digestive bacteria and other components.  As the lubricating sugars dry up, the lips, cheeks and tongue can become extremely dry.   Lips can crack, stick to the teeth and life can be a challenge dealing with this during the waking hours and in the aftermath of a night of sleep with prolonged dry mouth.   Swallowing can become temporarily difficult and/or uncomfortable.   Taste sensation can be diminished.  Speech can also be affected.


Treatment for Xerostomia:

  1. The best treatment would always be to eliminate the cause if that were possible.   For example, if a certain medicine causes Xerostomia and the patient can be taken off of the medication or switched to one that does not cause Xerostomia, the normal salivary flow may be restored.

  2. Using saliva replacement substitutes can also help.   Biotene is the first company that I can recall which created a line of products for people with dry mouth.   Now there seems to me many other lines of products and even some generic store brand products that can be quite good.  After a recent corrective sinus surgery that I underwent (recently like 4 days ago), I frequently used lip balm, “Moisyn” brand dry mouth relief  and CVS’s Dry Mouth Gel with pectin 0.5%.   I am sure that there are many great products.

  3. Stay Hydrated.   Somehow I think that the saying “Stay Hydrated” is the battle cry for the treatment of everything.  This message has been sponsored by Water.

Things to avoid:

  1. Avoid all acidic foods:  If it is sour, it is acidic.  For example, all sodas including soda water, any sour fruit, sour pasta sauce, etc.

  2. Avoid sour candies or cough drops.   Although the sour candy can cause your salivary glands to produce and release more saliva, the acidic nature of the candy could cause more harm than the positive affect of the increased saliva.

  3. Avoid complacent tooth care.   This is the time to step up your game.   Clean your teeth very well every day with the ideas that I teach in my tooth and gum care video that I have not yet created as of November 2020.

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