July 13, 2020

Healthy Mouth = Healthy Life

By Carol Van Aernam, RDH, BA
Consultant: Iowa Care Givers

Do You Have a Dry Mouth? (Xerostomia)?

Question: What are the symptoms of a dry mouth?

Answer: If you are not producing enough saliva you may experience a dry or sticky feeling in your mouth, frequent thirst, a burning or tingling sensation in your mouth and especially on your tongue. You may also have hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat, bad breath or problems wearing dentures. You may also experience trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking.

Question: Why is saliva important?

Answer: You need saliva to make it easier to chew and swallow your food, which improves digestion. Saliva protects your teeth from dental decay and helps to prevent infection in your mouth. If you wear dentures, it helps to reduce denture sores and improves their fit making them feel more comfortable.

Question: What are the major causes of a dry mouth?

Answer: It is a side effect of over 400 medications, both prescription and over the counter drugs. Side effects of certain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and stroke. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can also cause a dry mouth, which increases the risk for infection and other oral sores. Dehydration is another cause and or effect of a dry mouth.

Question: What can be done about a dry mouth?

Answer: Treatment will depend on what is causing the problem.

If the cause cannot be changed, such as your medication or disease you can try to moisten your mouth often with water during the day and at mealtimes. Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free hard candy to stimulate salivary flow. Use a humidifier to moisten the air in your room.

Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and sodas with caffeine and sugar. Do not use tobacco or alcohol. Do not use mouth rinses that contain alcohol. Be aware that spicy or salty foods can cause pain in your dry mouth.

Question: What type of over the counter products can I use for my dry mouth?

Answer: Products that contain xylitol can stimulate the flow of saliva and may help prevent cavities.

There are many commercial over the counter dry mouth products that you can buy and try. These include mouth rinses (without alcohol), sprays, mints, gels, gum, and toothpastes. The effectiveness of these products depends on your personal preferences and the cause and severity of your dry mouth.

Question: What should I do if the problem continues?

Answer: Visit your dentist to determine the cause of your dry mouth and the best-recommended treatment.

For additional information contact:
Carole Ferch, RDH, I-Smile™ Silver Coordinator
Scott County Health Department
600 W. 4th St., Davenport, IA 52801-1030
Phone: 563.326.8258

Filed Under: Featured, Health & Wellness