Over the past few years I’m seeing more patients with xerostomia or dry mouth. Dry mouth is a manifestation of some other problem and not a disease itself.
Causes of dry mouth are numerous. Medications are the leading cause of dry mouth in our older patients.
Meds most likely to be linked to dry mouth are: depression and anxiety disorder meds, antihistamines and decongestants, bronchodilators, and meds for Parkinson’s Disease.
Diseases play a big role in dry mouth symptoms. Diseases such as: Sjogren’s Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Mumps have all been linked to dry mouth.
Chemotherapy is linked to dry mouth.
Radiation treatment to the head and neck area can diminish salivary flow.
Life style choices like smoking, chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol use can all lead to dry mouth.
During regular dental exams we often notice if patients are suffering with dry mouth by the signs we observe. But it is usually the patient that brings the issue to our attention because they have already noticed the symptoms. Patients will typically notice their saliva feels sticky and thick. Some patients say their tongue feels rough and sticks to their palate. Many patients will have trouble swallowing dry foods. Bad breathe is common. As are dry lips and mouth ulcers. Food builds up and sticks to teeth readily when the mouth is dry. Denture patients have a great deal of tissue irritation.
Obviously patients with dry mouth experience a lot of discomfort, but these patients also have a high rate of decay activity with their teeth. Many patients with dry mouth require an enormous amount of restorative dentistry. We can minimize restorative needs as much as possible by following special treatment protocols.
Once dry mouth conditions are identified, it is important to determine the cause. This will usually require a consult with the patient’s physician. A patient should be screened for causative disease. If medication side effects are suspected sometimes alternative meds can be used. The patient’s medical doctor should be called upon to make all medical diagnoses.
We can help in the dental office by having the patient come in more frequently for dental cleanings and performing in office fluoride treatments. Prescription fluoride toothpaste is also a good idea. Biotene rinses, gels, toothpastes, and sprays are good products that provide some relief. Some patients like ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Lozenges and sugar free chewing gum to stimulate salivary flow. Trident Extra Care Gum is a good product.
Life style changes can also help dry mouth sufferers. Avoid all tobacco products and alcohol. Don’t use mouth washes with alcohol. Opt for Biotene, Crest Pro Health, or Oasis mouth rinses. Of course drink lots of water throughout the day. Sucking on ice chips can also be helpful.
For severe dry mouth issues a couple of prescription drugs: Salogen and Evoxac are available but these also have side efects and the patient’s physician should direct any decision to begin this type therapy.
I hope this information helps anyone in need and thanks for reading.
Jeff Efird DDS
About Dr. Efird
Dr. Jeff Efird has practiced dentistry for over 20 years. His love and respect for the dental profession continues to grow as he sees patients positively affected by proper oral health and quality treatment under his care. Dr. Efird understands a relationship with a dentist is a lifelong endeavor and values the respect and trust his patients extend.
Dr. Efird began his training as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. He attained a degree in chemistry before continuing his education and graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 1987.
Dedicated to expanding his own knowledge and that of his practice, Dr. Efird has completed over 1000 hours of continuing education since graduating from dental school. Over the last decade he has focused most of his education of advanced restorative techniques and implant restorative solutions. Much of the training has been associated with the renowned Spear Education center in Scottsdale.
A member of the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, North Carolina Dental Society, and Buncombe County Dental Society, Dr. Efird is committed to providing outstanding quality care to patients in Western North Carolina. He lives in Asheville with his wife and son, and loves to fish and build handcrafted boats.