Have you noticed your mouth feels drier than before? Maybe it’s more difficult to chew your food comfortably? Most of us take saliva for granted, but a lack of saliva can cause significant dental health problems. It’s a condition called dry mouth or xerostomia, where the saliva glands fail to make enough saliva to keep your mouth moist and comfortable. Dry mouth can be a side-effect of radiation therapy for cancer or because of certain medications, or because of lifestyle factors, and it becomes more common when you age.
Why Saliva Is Essential for Good Dental Health
Saliva makes it easier to chew and swallow your food properly, and it contains essential enzymes that begin the process of digestion. Saliva protects dental health by helping to neutralize acids produced by bacteria, washing away food particles and limiting the growth of bacteria. Initially, having a dry mouth may seem like a nuisance, but it can greatly affect the health of your teeth and gums.
What Are the Signs of Dry Mouth?
Signs include having bad breath, feeling a sensation of stickiness or dryness in your mouth, and your saliva could seem thick. You may notice it’s difficult to chew and swallow food and to speak, or that your sense of taste has changed. Another symptom is noticing you have a dry or sore throat, or that your voice sounds hoarse. Denture wearers may find using dentures is less comfortable. If any of these signs sound familiar, it’s best to make an appointment with your Newcastle dentist.
Diagnosing Dry Mouth
When you visit us here at West Bowmanville Family Dental, our dentist can soon diagnose if you have dry mouth. We will examine your mouth gently and review your medical history in case over-the-counter medications or prescription medicines cause the condition. The treatment can depend on the cause of your dry mouth as sometimes people may need other tests including blood tests or imaging scans showing the amount of saliva produced. A condition called Sjogren’s syndrome can cause dry mouth, in which case a small biopsy of the saliva glands in the lips is used for testing.
Treating Dry Mouth
If it’s possible prescription medications are exacerbating dry mouth, we may recommend talking to your GP. They might be able to change the dosage or prescribe another medication that doesn’t cause this side effect. It’s crucial to talk to your doctor first as you should never discontinue or change the dosage of prescription medications without their advice.
Otherwise, there are lots of things we can do to help you cope with dry mouth in Clarington. We can prescribe mouth rinses or artificial saliva or moisturizers, or you can buy these over-the-counter. We can discuss which might be most suitable for your use and can advise you on how frequently to use these products. It may be possible to prescribe medication that stimulates saliva flow, and we can also talk about protecting your dental health.
One way we can do this is by providing a custom preventative dental care plan showing how frequently we recommend dental checkups and hygiene appointments. You might benefit from seeing a hygienist in Courtice more frequently as removing hardened dental plaque, a substance called tartar or calculus, can help protect teeth and gums against tooth decay and gum disease. Another thing we may suggest is topical applications of fluoride to harden tooth enamel, increasing its resistance against cavities.
There are things you can do too. These include frequently sipping on water, chewing sugar-free gum, and some people find it helpful to use a humidifier in their bedroom. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol usage can also be useful.