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Can We Get You a Drink?

Posted on September 12, 2010 | in Dental Care | by

“I want you to connect with me through sharing and understanding the concept of dry mouthedness[1].”

It should be easy to seal an envelope, but those who suffer from a condition called xerostomia, or “dry mouth,” usually have to reach for some tape instead. It may not sound traumatic, but it’s a bigger nuisance than you might realize.

And even though we poke fun through movie quotes and sarcasm, dry mouth can not only hinder your enjoyment of food, but affect the health of your teeth.

Heavy plaque and food accumulations tend to occur with this condition, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva is the body’s self-cleansing mechanism. It helps remove food, debris, and plaque from the tooth surfaces, protecting you from oral diseases. It cleans your teeth and neutralizes acids, which prevents tooth decay. People who have dry mouth are very susceptible to cavities, especially on the roots of their teeth.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

There are a number of known causes of dry mouth. It can be part of the normal aging process, caused by medication or the result of cancer therapy, nerve damage or other health conditions. Smoking and chewing tobacco can contribute as well. Symptoms include: difficulty speaking or swallowing, a burning sensation on your tongue, an altered sense of taste, sores or split skin at the corners of your mouth, bad breath and increased plaque or tooth decay.

What Can I Do about It?

If you feel you’re suffering from dry mouth, see a doctor for diagnosis. If a physician believes medication is to blame, he or she may adjust your dosage. You might also be prescribed something to stimulate saliva production. If the cause of the problem can’t be resolved, there are a few things you can do to make life easier. Try to get your saliva flowing by sucking on sugar-free hard candy or chewing sugar-free gum. To protect your teeth, brush with a fluoride toothpaste. It’s a good idea to schedule a dental appointment as well.  A prescription toothpaste or brush-on fluoride gel may be in order.

Additional self-care includes:

– Sipping plenty of water throughout the day

– Over-the-counter saliva substitutes

– Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth

– Using a humidifier at night

– If you use tobacco, kick the habit!

Source: Internet Dental Alliance, Inc.


[1] Dialogue from the movie, “White Men Can’t Jump” (1992) – read The Washington Post review here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/whitemencantjumprhinson_a0a756.htm

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+Chris Barnard is Managing Editor of DentalPatientNews.com, a patient-centric Social Dental Network blog dedicated to enabling the digital dental health conversation - and the eradication of the cavity creeps.
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