Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, and the correct medical term for this condition is xerostomia. It’s a very uncomfortable condition, but can also put the sufferer at increased risk of developing dental diseases such as gum disease and tooth decay. It also increases the risk of other diseases such as fungal infections and thrush. Saliva has an important role to play in keeping the mouth healthy and fresh.
The Importance of Saliva to Oral Health
Saliva not only keeps the mouth comfortable, but also enables it to remain healthy as it helps to wash away excess plaque bacteria and excess pieces of food that could otherwise linger in the mouth creating potential problems. Every time we eat the pH levels in the mouth become more acidic due to the presence of plaque bacteria. This acid can soften the tooth enamel and can lead to dental problems. Having plenty of saliva helps ensure pH levels return to normal more quickly and the saliva can contain important minerals that help to re-harden teeth. Saliva has another important role to play while eating, as it contains an enzyme that aids digestion, helping to break down food before it is swallowed. A lack of saliva can make swallowing much more difficult.
Dry mouth can be caused by a number of different things, and it may be purely temporary or can be permanent. It can often be more prevalent in older people. Common causes include:
- As a side effect of taking certain prescription or non-prescription drugs. Certain cold medications, pain relief medications, antidepressants and allergy medications can cause xerostomia. They can also be caused by a huge number of other drugs including those commonly described for Parkinson’s disease. If you think you may have dry mouth due to certain prescription medications than it’s worth discussing it with your doctor in Leeds, but obviously you should never stop taking prescription medications without first seeking medical advice.
- Dry mouth can also be caused by a number of illnesses including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and HIV AIDS.
- Sometimes it can be due to damage to the salivary glands, especially if someone has received treatment for head and neck cancers. These glands can also be damaged due to trauma, or during surgery.
- Occasionally it’s necessary for the salivary glands to be surgically removed due to specific medical conditions.
- Sickness and diarrhea can cause temporary dry mouth.
- Xerostomia can also be due to smoking or chewing tobacco.
Visit Our Leeds Surgery If You Think You May Have Dry Mouth
If you’ve noticed you’re thirstier than usual, or that you have more difficulty in chewing and swallowing or that your throat is frequently sore then you may have xerostomia. Other common symptoms include noticing you have developed bad breath or that your lips are frequently chapped or cracked. In this case it’s well worth booking a check-up with Dr David Brown at Leeds City Dentalcare.
There are a number of things our dentist in Leeds can do to help you increase the flow of saliva. One of the things we might do is to describe an artificial saliva substitute to help you feel more comfortable, but there are a number of other things to try as well. If you are a smoker then it’s well worth trying to quit or least cut down to see if it helps to improve your symptoms.
Other things that can be useful include sucking on sugar-free sweets, or chewing sugar-free gum to help stimulate the flow of saliva. Making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day will help, and it is a good idea to check your bedroom isn’t too dry during the night. If it is then you may want to invest in a room humidifier, or simply place a bowel of water in the room overnight to increase humidity. Some people also find it helpful to cut back on alcohol and caffeine, as well as fizzy drinks.
Make sure you visit Leeds City Dentalcare regularly for checkups and cleanings, as this will help to minimise the risk of you developing dental diseases due to xerostomia. We may also recommend you use additional products containing fluoride to help protect your teeth and gums.