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Dry Mouth and Xerostomia Challenges

Dry mouth/xerostomia can pose many challenges when it comes to taking care and maintaining your oral health. Like anything when it comes to health, we like to get to the root cause. For many of our patients dry mouth is a side effect of medications that they're taking. Most medications today have warning labels with dry mouth at the top of the list. We can't take people off of their regimen, so in that case we have to treat the symptoms. While dry mouth itself won't cause cavities, it all comes down to how a patient deals with dry mouth.

For example, I have a patient who used to suck on cough drops in order to stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva and relieve them of their dry mouth. While this helped them feel better temporarily, it coated their teeth with sugar and left them with a ton of broken down teeth and decay. We have a few recommendations when it comes to treating dry mouth:

  1. Keep water with you at all times. Take sips of water as this will keep the pH of your mouth at a more neutral level and immediately relieve you of your dry mouth sensation.

  2. Give over the counter dry mouth solutions a try. There are a vast amount of products specifically for the treatment of dry mouth symptoms. Xylimelts, Biotene spray, and rinses are all over the counter solutions available at your pharmacy. Some patients find one product that works for them, while some don't feel like they make a huge difference.

  3. Brush your teeth after meals. While most people get a natural production of saliva throughout their meal, dry mouth patients do not get the continual rinsing of saliva afterward. This can leave excess debris and plaque on your teeth. It's not always practical to brush your teeth, but if you're at home it will aid in keeping cavity causing bacteria at bay without the fuel of your last meal.

Dry mouth is not always a side effect of medications. Rarely, an autoimmune condition called Sjogren's Syndrome can cause dry mouth. Usually patients will have other manifestations of this disease including dry eye and it is closely related with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. This condition can be treated with medication, but patients have to be closely followed by the primary care doctor.

In summary, dry mouth can be frustrating to manage. The solutions to treat it don't always work and dealing with it the wrong way can cause severe tooth decay and loss. Try to find a combination of over the counter adjuncts, meticulous oral home care and your favorite water bottle to manage the symptoms. Let us know if you have any further questions or would like a sample of some dry mouth solutions from our office!

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