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  • Dr Vyla Ellis

Does your mouth feel like the Sahara Desert?

A dry mouth can have terrible consequences for your teeth and oral health. Today we discuss dry mouth and provide some handy hints on combating it.

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, refers to a lack of saliva in the mouth. When we refer to dry mouth we are talking about a condition which affects a person at all times of day, as opposed to morning breath which is a common complaint where a person wakes up to a feeling of dryness.

What are the consequences of dry mouth?

Saliva is an important protective factor for the oral cavity and is crucial in fighting decay. It acts as a lubricant and is important in speaking and eating. Dry mouth sufferers can therefore suffering from the following:

  • High incidence of decay

  • Increased tooth sensitivity

  • Increased occurrence of oral infections

  • Burning mouth

  • Soreness under dentures and plates

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Difficulty speaking

  • Altered tastes

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth is more common as we age and in patients taking multiple medications or suffering from chronic health conditions. The following are common causes of dry mouth:

  • Medications, especially when taking multiple medications in combination

  • Sjogren's syndrome

  • Poorly controlled diabetes

  • History of radiation therapy to the head or neck

What can be done to combat dry mouth?

  • Use of Biotene toothpaste. Toothpastes can exacerbate symptoms. Biotene is designed specifically for dry mouth sufferers.

  • Use of a high fluoride toothpaste. As saliva is a protective factor, the lack of saliva calls for a need to increase other protective factors. A high fluoride toothpaste such as Neutrafluor 5000 can help. Speak to your dental team about whether this is right for you.

  • Saliva substitutes which can be purchased from the chemist.

  • Avoiding irritants which increase dehydration such as alcohol, mouthrinses with alcohol content, cigarettes and caffeine.

  • Using a humidifier at night time.

  • Rinsing with an olive oil emulsion. Place a teaspoon of olive oil in a cup of water and mix together.

  • Chewing sugar free gum to stimulate saliva flow.

  • Eating raw vegetables and hard cheese after meals to stimulate saliva flow.

Dry mouth can wreck long term damage to the teeth and your general health. If you are experiencing dry mouth we recommend that you see your dental team to discuss how you can best manage the condition and prevent long term damage to your health.

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