Individuals of all ages can suffer from xerostomia, a condition more commonly known as dry mouth. Roughly 10% of the population suffers from dry mouth in varying degrees.
Dry mouth is a direct result of decreased salivary flow inside the mouth. Saliva does more than just keep the mouth moist… it helps to digest food, neutralizes acid to decrease the risk of tooth decay and cleanses the mouth of bacteria and food debris. Anyone one of us can experience dry mouth.
It many of us. dry mouth can sometimes be brought on by something as simple as general stress or nervousness.
However, the more harmful effects of dry mouth can become problematic when an individual has symptoms all or most of the time.
Symptoms can include …
- a cracked, sticky, or pasty tongue that might prevent an individual from tasting food or speaking clearly
- a burning or sore feeling inside the mouth that may include mouth sores, or
- trouble chewing or swallowing, which can decrease the ability to ingest necessary nutrients
Dry mouth can also be caused by …
- Radiation treatment for head and neck cancer; in killing the cancer, the radiation also kills the salivary glands
- CPAP machines
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Various chronic diseases, including
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Although you cannot realistically rid yourself of dry mouth, there are many things that you can do to treat it and stimulate saliva throughout on a daily basis such as …
- Drink water frequently to keep your mouth moist and to loosen mucus
- Carry water with you to sip throughout the day and keep water by your bed at night
- Suck on hard candies, ice chips, or sugar-free popsicles throughout the day
- Chew sugarless gum (that contains xylitol but not sorbitol) … the sucking and chewing actions help stimulate the flow of saliva
- Moisten foods with broths, soups, sauces, gravy, creams, and even butter
- try to eat foods cool or at room temperature
- Avoid mouth rinses or that contain alcohol or peroxide… these ingredients will further dry out your mouth
- Avoid salty foods, dry foods (for example, crackers, toast, cookies, dry breads, dry meats/poultry/fish, dried fruit, bananas) and foods and beverages with high sugar content
- Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine (for example, coffees, teas, some colas, chocolate-containing drinks)… alcohol increases water loss by triggering frequent urination… alcohol, as well as caffeine, also dries out the mouth
- Avoid acidic beverages, such as any fruit juices (orange, apple, grape, grapefruit) and tomato juice
- Use a moisturizer on your lips to minimize irritation
- Rinse your mouth with water after each meal
- Use a cold humidifier to increase the humidity in your home, especially at night
- Stop smoking if you are a smoker (easier said than done, we know!)
If the above measures don’t improve your dry mouth, talk to your doctor or dentist. It could be that medications or another condition is the cause. Medications are one of the most common causes of dry mouth. Long-term relief from your dry mouth may mean stopping or changing your medication or its dosage, or addressing underlying health issues.
These days, over 400 medications can cause dry mouth … these include blood pressure medications, antidepressants, asthma drugs, antihistamines, muscle relaxants and painkillers.