Millions of Americans suffer from xerostomia. Xerostomia is the medical term for the effects of dry mouth. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, xerostomia affects anywhere from 29 to 57 percent of older persons. Dry mouth can truly impact quality of life. At Pelican Landing Dental, our new blog serves as a venue for dental and oral health education. Today we would like to discuss dry mouth. As always, we welcome questions so feel free to contact us electronically or call us at (239)449-6104. We hope you enjoy!
What Causes Dry Mouth?
By far the most common reason for hyposalivation and subsequent dry mouth is medication. There are many different classes of medications that can cause dry mouth. A few examples are as follows:
- ACE Inhibitors
- Alpha Blockers
- Beta Blockers
- Analgesics (painkillers)
- Muscle Relaxers
As you would imagine, there are many different variations and different formulations of each of these. It is estimated that over 400 medications can cause or contribute to dry mouth. There are a few less common factors that can lead to dry mouth. Head and neck radiation can lead to the destruction of salivary glands and chronic dry mouth. Tumors or trauma to salivary glands can lead to the inability to produce adequate salivation. Finally, the Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that as many as 3 percent of Americans suffer from Sjogren Syndrome. Ninety percent of those suffering from this syndrome are women and most are over 50 years of age.
What are the Effects and Dangers of Dry Mouth?
Saliva serves some important functions. First, saliva lubricates the oral cavity. This allows us to eat and speak more effectively. People that suffer from hyposalivation often find themselves unable to eat certain dry foods and find that normal speech is deficient without assistance from water or other liquids.
Second, saliva has important enzymes that allow us to break down carbohydrates. Deficiencies or absence of saliva can inhibit proper digestion by placing more weight on our lower digestive tract to break down these carbohydrates.
Saliva also assists in the balance a demineralization and remineralization process that always occurs to our teeth. When we eat, our intraoral acidity increases and acts to pull the minerals from the tooth structure. Without saliva, these minerals cannot adequately be replaced and cavities can form as a result. Patients that suffer from xerostomia are at an extreme risk for dental decay.
Patients that suffer from xerostomia can be plagued with other health problems as well. Overall nutritional problems can affect the entire systemic health. In addition, psychological effects from the variety of ailments associated with dry mouth are a major concern. People that suffer from xerostomia often experience chronic sore throat, hoarseness, painful swallowing, dry nasal passages, inflammation and cracking of the lips, oral fungal infections, chronic bad breath, and painful oral lesions and cracking of the soft tissue.
Dry Mouth Treatment
If you or a loved one suffer from xerostomia, you may want to know the options for treatment. First, if medication is the culprit, a consult with the treating physician may be in order to determine if there are alternative medications that may decrease or eliminate these signs and symptoms. Ultimately if the underlying cause for dry mouth can be found, successful treatment is much more likely. For those situations where the cause of dry mouth cannot be remedied, there are treatment options to help manage the symptoms. First, those that suffer from dry mouth often find themselves frequently sipping fluids. This can help to some degree. Second, there are many different over-the-counter and prescription medications that are designed to help substitute or induce salivation. The Oral Cancer Foundation has a terrific outline of these different medications. Feel free to click here to view.
Finally, those that suffer from xerostomia must also consider and attempt to counteract the effects of this problem in their daily lives. Fluoride rinses, changes in diet (less sugar), frequent dental appointments, daily intraoral checks, antimicrobial rinses, and alterations in denture wear can all help in decreasing or eliminating problems caused by xerostomia.
We understand that this blog is not all encompassing. As a result, we welcome questions, concerns, and new patients that would like to discuss this topic further. Feel free to contact us at any time with questions!