What is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of dry mouth. In fact, more than 400 medications can contribute to mouth dryness. The most common troublemakers are antihypertensives, antidepressants, painkillers, tranquilizers, diuretics, and antihistamines.
Dry mouth may be a sign of a serious health condition or may occur when a person is upset or experiences stress. It also can be caused by radiation therapy and chemotherapy, hormonal alterations or diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, or Sjogren's syndrome. Patients with Alzheimer's disease or those who suffer a stroke may experience dry mouth. Approximately 30 percent of persons over the age of 65 are affected by dry mouth.
How Can I Treat Dry Mouth?
There are many treatments that can help ease the symptoms of dry mouth, including over-the-counter saliva substitutes. To ease discomfort, your dentist may also recommend the following:
- Brush and floss twice a day
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid acidic juices (i.e., tomato, orange, grapefruit)
- Avoid dry foods, such as toast or crackers
- Avoid overly salty foods
- Drink plenty of water
- Regular dentist visits