How Does Dry Mouth Affect Your Oral Health?

Last month I talked about gum recession and root exposure and how older patients are seeing more decay in their teeth because of these things.  This month I’d like to address another health concern that we see more frequently in older patients and that is “Dry mouth.”.

Interestingly enough, dry mouth is not attributed to aging.  You don’t get a dry mouth just because you are older.  The reason we see dry mouth more often in older patients is that they are on more medications and have more health issues than younger patients.   Dry mouth is attributed to reduced saliva flow from some or all of your salivary glands.  Dry mouth – also known as xerostomia – is a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications.  Common medications that cause xerostomia are antihistamines, pain killers and diuretics as well as many others.  The most common medical condition that causes dry mouth is Sjogren’s syndrome.  Cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation can also reduce salivary flow.

Unfortunately, dry mouth is not clinically detectable until you have lost half of your saliva flow.  Some things you can look for are:  constant sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and trouble speaking.  If you notice any of these symptoms, please talk to us.  We can help you figure out where your dry mouth is coming from and create a plan to combat it.  Depending on the cause, dry mouth can often be treated with sugar free candy or gum to help stimulate saliva flow.  Many times we will also recommend oral moisturizers.

Saliva is vital for cleaning and lubricating your teeth and oral tissues.  Without adequate saliva, tooth decay can become extensive.  Add this to saliva with a low pH, receding gums and exposed root surfaces, and you can see why decay is such a huge concern as we grow older.

If you suddenly have a cavity or two after years of decay free check-ups, talk to your hygienist. We can help you avoid further decay by addressing the issues that have caused the sudden change in your decay rate.  We’ll work with you to reduce your risk for decay and keep those cavity free visits coming!

Thanks for Reading,

Dr. Bruce