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Dry Mouth

What is dry mouth?

Saliva is our body's natural way of keeping our mouth moist and lubricated.  When there is a decrease of saliva flow or lack of in the mouth, a condition called "Dry Mouth" occurs.  Dry mouth affects us all at one point or another, but the time period that it affects us is very short and mostly temporarily: such as when we're dehydrated or stressed.  However, dry mouth can become a regular problem as we age and our bodies change, or when our bodies are changed due to treatment, disease or lifestyle. 

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands stop working effectively.  This can be caused by:

  1. chemotherapy and radiation treatment
  2. type of medications and the number of medications taken daily
  3. health conditions such as diabetes or Sjogren's syndrome
  4. Smokers

Symptoms of dry mouth:

  • difficulty eating, especially with dry foods such as cereal or crackers
  • difficulty swallowing and speaking
  • a burning sensation in the mouth
  • taste disturbances
  • painful tongue
  • dried, cracked and/or painful lips
  • bad breath
  • feeling thirsty especially at night
  • dry rough tongue

Symptoms can include all or some of the above; however, saliva flow may be reduced to 50% before you feel any of the profound effects of dry mouth.  Saliva is important in maintaining a healthy and cavity free mouth, lack of it can cause additional dental problems.

What can you do?

  • Sip water or sugar-free drinks often
  • Avoid drinks which dry out the mouth, such as caffeine containing drinks (tea, coffee, alcohol...)
  • Chew sugar-free gums or candies to stimulate saliva flow
  • Avoid tobacco use
  • Use a humidifier at night to keep the air full of moisture

Keep your teeth healthy and decay/cavity-free by:

  • Visiting Dr. Basta twice a year for your professional dental cleaning and treating decay and cavities
  • brush your teeth with a soft bristle toothbrush after meals and at bedtime
  • floss gently everyday
  • Use an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste
  • avoid alcohol containing mouthwashes
  • avoid sweet and sugary foods

If your medications are causing dry mouth, discuss with your medical doctor if alternate medications can be used. 

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