Saliva is one of your body’s natural defenses against plaque because it acts to rinse your mouth of cavity-causing bacteria and other harmful materials. Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults. It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.
Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages. Left untreazted, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.
Common symptoms of dry mouth include:
• A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
• Frequent thirst
• Sores in the mouth; sores or split at the corners of the mouth; cracked lips
• A dry feeling in the throat
• A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth and especially on the tongue
• A dry, red, raw tongue
• Problems speaking or difficulty tasting, chewing, and swallowing
• Hoarseness, dry nasal passages, sore throat
• Bad breath
How to control dry mouth:
• Keep fluids at bedside at night
• Chew sugarless gum
• Avoid tobacco, alcohol and foods high in sugar
• Adjust the air humidity in your home
• Establish a good plaque control program – since heavy plaque accumulations occur with oral dryness
• Use fluoride – toothpaste, rinse, or gel
• Use a saliva substitute – this is a commercial product which attempts to “wet” the mouth like saliva does; it can be found in most pharmacies.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) can result in oral discomfort and can have serious consequences. If you feel you have this symptom, please see your dentist.