| 09/23/14

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Dry mouth (or, xerostomia as its called in the medical community) is more than just a nuisance. While everyone experiences dry mouth in certain circumstances – such as when they are nervous, under a lot of stress, or fatigued, there is cause for concern if you experience dry mouth frequently or most of the time.

When left untreated, dry mouth can lead to many different health problems. The most common complications caused by dry mouth are:

  • Difficulty tasting, chewing and swallowing food
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Cracked lips
  • Increased risk of dental decay
  • Increased risk of mouth sores and infections

The good news is that there are many ways to treat and manage dry mouth, and it starts with identifying the cause. Ā Here are six of the most common causes of dry mouth in the patients we see:

Medications

Medications both prescribed and over the counter, can produce dry mouth as a side effect. Those that are used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, as well as antihistamines and decongestants are the most common culprits.

Aging

Contrary to popular belief, dry mouth is not a normal part of the aging process. However, older patients tend to take medications which exacerbate dry mouth conditions.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

Cancer patients are often at risk of developing dry mouth as the salivary glands are exposed to radiation during treatment. Drugs used during the chemotherapy cycle frequently cause dry mouth in many patients.

Sleep Habits

Sleep conditions such as snoring or breathing with your mouth open while you sleep can worsen dry mouth. Try sleeping on your side, or on your stomach. You may even want to try a sleep device to manage your snoring.

Nerve Damage

Trauma or injury to the head, neck, or mouth can cause damage to the nervous system that sends direction to the salivary glands. When this occurs the salivary glands may produce less saliva leading to dry mouth. Some surgical procedures to the mouth or throat could cause damage.

Lifestyle

Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase dry mouth symptoms. Poor oral health habits – such as not brushing or flossing regularly and not keeping hydrated – can also increase the effects of dry mouth. Make sure you are drinking water regularly throughout the day!

If your dry mouth is a persistent problem, it’s time to talk to your dentist. We may be able to prescribe new medicines or even rinses that will help manage your condition. In the meantime, remember that oral rinses, proper hydration, sugar free candies and gums can help improve saliva flow.

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