One in four people are affected by Dry Mouth.
That is 25 percent of the population! Dry mouth, or “cottonmouth” as it is commonly nicknamed, occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough saliva. There are three main categories of patients who experience dry mouth:
- Patients who are on multiple prescription drugs (Polypharmacy)
- Cancer patients
- Patients who have Sjogren’s Syndrome
In each of these categories the symptoms of dry mouth are the same:
- Decreased to no saliva
- Increased tooth or root decay
- The feeling of cotton in your mouth
In today’s polypharmacy society (patients taking multiple medications) dry mouth is a real problem, affecting 40 percent of older adults. As a society we are living longer thanks to modern medicine, however, it is not without a cost. Pharmaceuticals are used to treat specific problems, yet have a plethora of side effects. The most common among them is dry mouth. Once you start increasing the number of prescriptions you take, you increase your chances of having dry mouth or perpetuating an existing problem if you are currently suffering from dry mouth.
Another common cause of dry mouth is Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is an immune disorder that affects both your tear glands and your salivary glands leaving you with dry eyes and mouth. For these patients, they also experience negative effects on their teeth due to lack of saliva.
Lastly, patients who have undergone radiation to the head and neck for cancer treatments are very susceptible to dry mouth. Unfortunately due to the aggressiveness of cancer treatments, these patients often never experience normal salivary flow following radiation treatments.
Other than dry mouth being annoying and giving you that constant feeling of having cotton in your mouth or making it difficult to swallow, you may also experience negative outcomes at your next dental visit. Saliva has many functions, some of which include:
- A wetting agent
- Being the first step in the digestion process
- Removing food debris/bacteria away from your teeth and gums
Without these functions of saliva, sugars and acids remain on our teeth increasing our rate of decay by breaking down the enamel (and the tooth root if recession is present), and causing gum disease and bad breath. Enamel is eight to nine times stronger than the tooth root, therefore, people with dry mouth often experience root caries (tooth root decay) due to their inability to have their saliva wash away the food, sugar and acids.
So what are treatment options if you suffer from dry mouth?
A great aid in alleviating the symptoms of dry mouth is a product called Biotene. Their products come in a mouthwash, tooth paste, gum and mints. The mouthwash is Dr. K’s favorite due to its wetting ability and removal of food debris. Many patients also enjoy the mints and gum, saying they help their mouth to not feel as dry or sticky, and these products help them swallow.
Dr. K’s advice is to avoid “regular” mints if possible. Even if they are sugar free and you feel you are getting increased salivary flow, most often they have some form of acid that gives them flavor. Overexposure to this acid can lead to decay on your teeth and tooth roots, so you will have helped with the symptoms of dry mouth but increased your chances for higher dental bills due to increased decay.
MI Paste does not necessarily help with the symptoms of dry mouth, however, it does help aid in the fight against decay. It is a fluoride free option to help remineralize and keep your teeth strong for the prevention of cavities.
If you are suffering from dry mouth and want a custom consultation for the best treatment options, contact our office for an appointment.