Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston explains why chronic dry mouth occurs and what to do to about it to prevent bigger health problems
Smiles and Your Health Topics: Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health
Do you, or someone you know, suffer from chronic dry mouth? Did you know that, aside from the discomfort, a dry mouth can contribute to tooth decay and periodontal disease?
Lancaster dentist Dr. Matthew Kingston explains that dry mouth, or Xerostomia, affects up to 25% of people as they age. It occurs due to several different reasons. Most often, it is a side effect of common medications or certain medical conditions. Whatever the cause, the end result is a decrease in the total amount of saliva.
Symptoms of dry mouth can include:
- Difficulty eating and swallowing
- A burning sensation in the gum tissue
- Soreness of the tongue
- Food sticking to the teeth surfaces and not being washed away
It is important for people who recognize that they have dry mouth to see their dentist. Left untreated, food is not washed away from the teeth, and acidic foods are not buffered by the alkaline pH of the saliva. This puts individuals at a heightened risk for tooth decay. Additionally, the gum tissue, tongue and oral tissues are left dry, and oral bacteria can multiply, causing an increased risk for gum infection.
Recommended therapies for decreasing the symptoms of dry mouth and preventing tooth decay and oral disease can be simple. These include:
- Brush teeth frequently - after every meal to remove excess food
- Drink plenty of fluids (sugar free) to stay hydrated
- Have teeth cleanings more frequently to catch tooth decay early - every 3-4 months instead of every six
- Floss regularly
- Consider topical Fluoride treatments prescribed by your dentist
- Be sure that your dentist is evaluating your gum health at each visit
- Ask your dentist about saliva substitutes and products that help alleviate symptoms of dry mouth
Some people experience dry mouth due to a systemic medical condition, but most people have xerostomia as a result of common prescription medications. There are literally hundreds of medications that can contribute to dry mouth. These medications are often important in treating common conditions and should not be stopped. However, if you are experiencing dry mouth, talk to your dentist and physician about alternative drugs that can be taken that may not have the same effect on salivary flow.
If you have questions about dry mouth and would like to discuss treatments that are available today, call Healthy Smiles Dental (717.945.7440) to make an appointment for an initial visit or consultation. "Providing up-to-date information on how to handle dental health concerns such as dry mouth is just one more way we try to help our patients maintain their healthy smile," Dr. Kingston says.