What to Do for Dry Mouth Syndrome?
Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth, can be a debilitating and constant problem. Dry mouth sufferers find sleeping difficult at night and eating difficult during the day. This can cause dry mouth anxiety about socializing and understandably impact a person's lifestyle. As dentists, we are here to help you discern dry mouth symptoms, over the counter remedies, home remedies, and dry mouth causes, which are usually associated with one or more of the following:
- A change in the production of our saliva with aging
- Prescription medications such as those for blood pressure, depression, and allergies
- A result of chronic dehydration
- Autoimmune conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis
- Dry mouth due to cancer treatment
It is important to understand the unique role saliva plays in our health. Saliva acts as a lubricant that allows us to speak, swallow, and protect our mouths. It has an antibacterial and antiviral quality and is the first line of defense for our immune system. It also neutralizes acidity caused by diet or reflux (GERD). And if that weren't enough, it can also reverse early tooth decay through remineralization.
This means that anyone with a reduced saliva rate is at risk of:
- Increased tooth decay
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Soreness in the mouth and cracked corners of the mouth
- Opportunistic infections of the mouth such as candida (thrush)
- Food becoming stuck to teeth which can be very embarrassing
If you are suffering from a dry mouth, you can reduce the risk of these problems by:
- Promoting the production of what little saliva we do have
- Replacing the saliva we do not have
- Taking steps to protect our mouth and teeth by implementing measures that restore the role of saliva
Secretion can be promoted by chewing sugar-free gum or sugar-free, non-acidic sweets. All-natural products like Dr. Heff’s Remarkable Mints promote saliva production, aid tooth remineralization, contain collagen-promoting polyphenols from green tea, and help resolve areas of early decay. It is essential to stay hydrated by drinking cups of herbal tea and several glasses of water. Better still, have a glass of water on the go throughout the day.
Saliva replacements can come as gels or sprays and make sore, dry mouths much easier to handle. Biotene is one such product. Patients can apply this gel throughout the day or last thing at night, which eases the soreness and protects the fragile lining of the mouth and gums.
Protection of the Mouth
As we have discussed, saliva provides exceptional protection for our teeth, and patients with less saliva tend to have a much higher rate of decay. Therefore, our oral care has to be top-notch.
Improve your oral care by:
- Using a rechargeable electric toothbrush with a circular head rather than a manual one. Patients should use this to clean all outer surfaces of the teeth for at least two minutes twice daily. You should use fluoride-containing toothpaste with at least 1450ppm fluoride in it.
- The surfaces between your teeth should be cleaned at least once a day with interdental brushes like the Tepe Easypicks. Make sure you use the largest one that can fit between your teeth. If this is too fiddly, don't worry, other gadgets can help remove harmful plaque from between your teeth, such as a water flosser, which is better than no interdental cleaning at all.
- See your dentist and hygienist as often as they recommend so they can identify problems quickly before they get established. They can prescribe an increased fluoride toothpaste and directly apply fluoride varnish to areas of concern. It is also important to check that dentures are fitting as they should, as any movements from a denture in a dry mouth can be very sore.
And, lastly, food! Eating is one of life's necessities and greatest pleasures. However, anyone suffering from a dry mouth may also have soreness after eating hard foodstuffs (crisps, crusty bread, etc.) or under dentures. Another product that I recommend to my patients is Gengigel.
This is a gel containing one of the building blocks of collagen, a protein used to maintain the cells that line our mouth. Gengigel is available as a mouthwash and a gel, and when applied four to five times a day, it helps ease pain and heal the ulcerated area quickly.
If you are a head and neck cancer survivor or are undergoing cancer treatment and would like a wonderful support group, please contact www.theswallows.org.uk.
Want to stock Dr.Heff's Remarkable Mints in your practice or shop, please contact [email protected].
For more information on how to care for your teeth and mouth or any other questions, please visit our website www.drheffs.com.
We are happy to help!
Dr. Mike Heffernan