By Jill M. Golsen, DMD
If your tongue and cheeks have ever felt like they are stuck to your teeth or your mouth has felt like it is stuffed with cotton, then you know what I am talking about. What you are experiencing is called xerostomia, also known as dry mouth. Other signs include sores in the corner of the mouth, general plaque, dry nasal passages, bad breath, being thirsty, and trouble swallowing.
Medications: chances are, if you are taking any medication, from antihistamines to antidepressants, you can experience dry mouth. Look at the label for side effects and see if dry mouth or xerostomia is listed.
Smoking: nicotine dries the tissue inside the mouth and dehydrates it. Don’t smoke or “dip.”
Disease: Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, cancer treatments and more can cause dry mouth.
Why is Dry Mouth a Bad Thing?
We need our saliva to flow like a river through our teeth, over our cheeks and gums to lubricate the tissue, digest our food, and control the bacterial and fungal population.
When the flow is slowed, the first thing we encounter is an overgrowth of the bacteria that can cause everything to spiral downhill. Once the more than 200 types of bad bacteria take hold to the sticky plaque in your mouth, the bacteria go to town by eating enamel, poisoning your gum tissue, and causing decay and bleeding red gums. All of this leads to dental decay and periodontal disease if left alone.
When we see a patient with dry mouth symptoms, they usually don’t recognize what has caused this problem. If we can’t identify a medication they might be taking that could be the cause, we look for a disease that might be creeping up on them.
If it’s a medication, the patient needs to limit sugary drinks, simple carbs, and stick to water to hydrate their mouth while taking that medication. Sometimes another medication can be substituted—ask your doctor or pharmacist. There are some over-the-counter mouthwashes and lozenges available for rehydration for the chronic issues caused by a disease.
The Final Word
If you are experiencing dry mouth (xerostomia), see a dentist and make sure your gums and teeth are not experiencing the bad effects of it! Decay and gum disease are expensive to treat and if you can catch this early, we can prevent bad things from happening.
Golsen Family Dentistry • Jill M. Golsen, DMD • (770) 667-0669 • GolsenDental.com