With an aging population comes a larger number of people taking prescription medications for a variety of conditions. The most common side effect of any medication is dry mouth. Also, dry mouth commonly follows radiation therapy for cancer, especially cancer of the head and neck. Some patients suffer from dry mouth without ever mentioning it to a medical doctor, but there are consequences to untreated dry mouth that a dentist can diagnose, as well as solutions. The problems with dry mouth include bad breath, dental decay, gum disease, and denture-wearers will have difficulty with denture retention.
Even in every healthy, clean mouth lives bacteria in a moist environment. However, when the mouth is drier, the forms of bacteria that live there are different, and harder to control. These bacteria can cause both gum disease and dental decay. In order to combat these problems, it is important for the patient to make certain lifestyle and diet changes.
Drink more water–it sounds very simple…and it is! Hydrating the inside of the mouth makes it harder for those stronger, more dangerous forms of bacteria to thrive.
Drink less coffee, tea, or alcoholic beverages–these all dehydrate the mouth even further, worsening an already difficult situation. Also watch for mouthwashes containing alcohol, and make sure the one you use is alcohol-free.
Use sugar-free hard candies or gum often–Having something in the mouth triggers the body to produce more saliva, because your body thinks it has to digest something. Please note I said SUGAR FREE!
Saliva replacements–your doctor or dentist can recommend or prescribe gels or pills that can be used when none of the above solutions seem to work. Also, products like Biotene mouth rinse are excellent for those with dry mouth.
More frequent visits with your dental hygienist–especially if your hygienist uses sonic water cleaners and dental lasers, because these can remove the sticky layers from your teeth called biofilm, which is home to the bacteria.
More frequent tooth brushing—especially with a high-quality electric toothbrush (we like Sonicare).
Please don’t hesitate to ask your dentist about ways to improve your dry mouth, or contact our office for more information.