Saliva and Dry Mouth
We all get a dry mouth once in a while, but if this is happening to you on a regular basis, it could be a sign of certain diseases and conditions. Having a dry mouth, or Xerostomia, as is the technical term, is a condition related to the salivary glands not correctly functioning. This reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth, leading to tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Saliva is necessary for everyday functions such as speaking, swallowing, tasting, and digesting. In addition, saliva is a natural defense for both the teeth and the gums, as it contains antibacterial compounds and various enzymes, in addition to electrolytes and water. These various components keep the mouth healthy by rinsing away food particles, providing enzymes to help digest food, reducing harmful bacteria, and neutralizing harmful acids.
What's the primary cause of dry mouth? Prescription medications, especially ones such as antihypertensive and diuretics. Other causes include hormonal imbalances and diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease.
We have seen many patients who suffer from irritated gums and an increased risk of cavities due to having a dry mouth. Solutions for a dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, using over-the-counter mouthwashes such as Biotene which stimulates saliva production, and using a humidifier at bedtime time to increase air moister. Avoiding citrusy drinks, and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption can also help reduce dry mouth. Increasing daily water consumption will also help. In certain cases, speaking to your MD about changing your prescription medications can also reduce the dry mouth side effects.
If you have a dry mouth, try the above suggestions, and make sure you are diligent with your oral health care and doing regular checkups to catch problems early. One way of reducing the risks to teeth of dry mouth is to get fluoride applications at your dental Hygiene appointments to make your enamel more resistant to cavities as well as help reverse any cavities that have recently started.
Dr Yamen Ghamian and Dr Habib Khoury