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Look Carefully at Dry Mouth: Causes and treatments

Dry mouth can be more than just an inconvenience. It can significantly impact your dental health, leading to tooth decay, bad breath (halitosis), and other oral health problems. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth is a widely under-diagnosed condition. Like other health conditions, it should be identified and treated early for the best possible outcome.

More than 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause dry mouth. There are many common medical conditions that are typically associated with dry mouth. These include but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone changes (pregnancy, menopause)
  • Radiation treatment for cancer of the head and neck
  • Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Dehydration

To determine the cause of your dry mouth, your dentist will review your medical history and perform a thorough clinical examination. An increase in decay (cavities), dry or cracked corners of the mouth, “sticky” mouth, oral infection, and red or inflamed tissue may indicate a decrease in saliva.

Fortunately, there are solutions for this common condition. Drinking lots of water through the day (and night if necessary) can help keep your mouth moisturized and quench your thirst. It is important to avoid sweetened drinks if possible, since you may not be producing enough saliva to effectively flush away the sugars. Chewing sugar-free gum or using sugar-free hard candy can stimulate your saliva flow. Avoiding alcohol, soft drinks, and caffeine is also extremely helpful in the battle against dry mouth.

There are numerous saliva substitutes available to help keep the oral tissues lubricated and moist. Options such as moisturizing gels, chewing gums, and mouth rinses are found in drugstores and supermarkets near the dental hygiene products. Be careful to read labels and choose alcohol- free mouth rinses.  Alcohol is known to intensify dry mouth and irritate your already inflamed tissues. Also, select the mildest toothpaste formula available, or a paste specifically formulated for patients with dry mouth. Many whitening and tarter control products contain active ingredients that can be too harsh for a dry mouth.

Discuss your symptoms with Dr. Darren K. Dickson, a Plano dental professional, or ask if you are displaying any symptoms commonly associated with dry mouth. Relief may be closer than you think.

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