Dry mouth, or xerostomia, comes from stress, cancer therapy, immune system disorders and other causes. Dry mouth contributes to dental issues such as tooth decay, too. Learn more about dry mouth from Selden, NY dentist, Dr. Stephen Scotto-Lavino.
Is dry mouth harmful?
Dry mouth is harmful if it’s a chronic problem with the mouth constantly feeling sticky and irritated. Saliva moisturizes the inside of the mouth and down the esophagus, initiating the digestive process with an enzyme called amylase. The body produces this chemical to break down carbohydrates and sugars. Without amylase, the esophagus and stomach struggle to process foods we eat.
With no saliva, your mouth can’t taste, talk and swallow normally. In fact, the drier the mouth becomes, the more oral tissues develop. Saliva is a wonderful antimicrobial agent and defends the mouth from viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold sore.
How xerostomia happens
Physicians at the well-respected Mayo Clinic say that dry mouth occurs more often as we age. Women over the age of 40 seem most prone, and about 20 percent of the elderly have dry mouth. Other factors such as anxiety and chronic stress, plus simply not drinking enough water, factor into the condition. Excessive caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and salt dry out oral mucosa, too.
Many prescription drugs cause xerostomia. Cancer drugs, anti-hypertensives, diuretics, and muscle relaxants remove moisture from the lips, tongue and gums. If you think one of your regular medications is problematic, ask your physician or pharmacist. Perhaps there is an alternative medication you could use.
Other precipitating factors include:
- Head and neck trauma
- Endocrine disorders
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Cystic fibrosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Many autoimmune disorders, such as Sjogren’s Syndrome which disrupts tear glands in the eyes and salivary glands in the mouth
How to treat Selden, NY dry mouth
Dr. Scotto-Lavino can diagnose dry mouth. He may advise something simple such as adequate water intake and chewing sugarless gum to stimulate the salivary glands. Limiting caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea and colas, along with reducing alcohol and salt, helps. Smoking cessation cuts down on symptoms, and it benefits overall health, too.
Some people use a bedroom humidifier to the air. Try breathing through the nose. Always remove dentures at night. Over-the-counter dry mouth rinses and saliva stimulants and substitutes relieve symptoms.
Keep your 6-month check-ups and cleanings with Dr. Stephen Scotto-Lavino. Brush with a soft-bristled brush twice a day, and floss once a day. Choose an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. Regular at-home oral hygiene stimulates the salivary glands to keep saliva flowing.
Contact Dr. Scotto-Lavino for your routine appointment. Ask your Selden, NY dentist about dry mouth and what you can do about it.