What is Xerostomia, what causes it and what does it do to my oral health?

Xerostomia is dry mouth. Many things can contribute to Xerostomia. Here are some causes:

  • Medication that you take is a major contributor. Over 500 medications have been linked to dry mouth. Check the side effects on your medication to see if xerostomia is one.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome causes dry mouth along with dry eyes.
  • Diabetes mellitus. Poor glycemic control has been associated with dry mouth.
  • Anxiety. Dry mouth is associated with anxiety due to mouth breathing during an anxiety attack, the medications, acid reflux during the periods of intense anxiety, fluid changes: the way your body moves fluids throughout when you’re in the fight or flight mode, dehydration.
  • Aging. Aging itself doesn’t cause dry mouth but most older people take medications or have other health concerns that cause dry mouth.
  • Cancer Therapy. Radiation to the head and neck can damage the saliva glands making them decrease the amount of saliva produced. Chemotherapy can change the amount produced and the bacteria in the saliva during the course of treatment. The saliva can return to normal once treatment is over.
  • Nerve damage. Nerve damage to the head and neck can result in dry mouth.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Methamphetamine use.
  • Stroke and Alzheimer’s. A person who has had a stroke or has Alzheimer’s may believe they have dry mouth but the saliva glands are functionally normally.

What are the side effects of Xerostomia?

  • Bad breath
  • Cheilitis-inflammation of fissuring of the lips
  • Cracking and fissuring of the inner lining of cheeks and lips also known as oral mucosa
  • Taste disorders
  • Fungal infections in the mouth such as thrush
  • Painful tongue
  • Inflammation of the tongue and tongue ulcers
  • Tooth decay and plaque
  • Problems with speech
  • Problems with swallowing and chewing dry and crumbly foods
  • Problems wearing dentures due to retention, sore spots and tongue sticking to the palate
  • Salivary gland infection
  • Sore throat
  • Sticky saliva and stringy saliva

What can be done to treat Xerostomia?

Here are some helpful tricks Dr. Ross recommends:

  1. Sipping water throughout the day is key. Constantly putting moisture in the mouth will keep the teeth clean from plaque and food debris.
  2. Chewing sugarless gum will stimulate the saliva flow.
  3. Restrict intake of caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages. These drinks cause dry mouth and dehydration.
  4. Brushing and flossing at least 2 times a day will help keep those teeth clean and help the already high risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease.
  5. Using products that contain fluoride and xylitol. Fluoride and Xylitol will promote tooth remineralization and reduce the acidity in the mouth.
  6. Stop tobacco use.
  7. Try to avoid OTC antihistamines and decongestants if possible.
  8. Try to breathe through your nose. Mouth breathing causes dry mouth to occur.
  9. Add a humidifier to your nightly routine. The humidifier will help add moisture to the air.
  10. Remove dentures and partials at night to allow the tissue time to breathe.

If the helpful tricks are still not cutting it, there are a lot of products on the market for dry mouth. Each product or recommendation is individualized in the effectiveness meaning if one product doesn’t work for you, try another one!

  • Rain by spry is a moisturizing mouth spray
  • Biotene Oral Balance is a mouth gel
  • Oasis is a mouth spray
  • Mouth Kote is a mouth spray
  • Salese lozenges
  • Clo-Sys is a toothpaste with very little taste
  • AloeSense is a toothpaste that has a soothing and moisturizing effect
  • Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse
  • Act Total Care Dry Mouth Rinse
  • 9 parts glycerine to 1 part water is a homemade mouthrinse

It is very important to keep up to date on your dental checkups if you have xerostomia. We would like to see you at least every six months and sometimes more regularly depending on the severity of the xerostomia.  If the xerostomia is sever seeing your Physician maybe necessary. There are prescription medications that can help stimulate saliva productions or the Physician may consider changing the medication that is causing the xerostomia.

Here at Ross Family Dentistry we are here to help you! Please let us know of all the medications your taking so we can treat you and your mouth as a whole!


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