Assessing and Treating Dry Mouth


Patients of Lifetime Family Dental will sometimes come in with questions or complaints concerning dry mouth, or xerostomia, a condition which occurs in about 10% of the population. It is most common among the elderly, likely due to the fact that many elderly people are on one of the more than 400 prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that cause dry mouth. Dry mouth can be an indicator of an underlying medical condition such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, or nerve damage. More often than not, however, a dry mouth and throat can be treated at home or by consulting with your doctor or dentist to make medication adjustments.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Whether temporary or chronic, dry mouth is downright uncomfortable. Symptoms can include a dry feeling in your mouth and throat, thick saliva, a rough tongue, cracked lips, trouble chewing or swallowing, an altered sense of taste and/or halitosis (bad breath). 

Possible Causes of Dry Mouth

Symptoms of dry mouth can be a response to factors including: 

– dehydration 

– reaction to a medication 

– stress

– anxiety

– tobacco or marijuana use 

– breathing through mouth 

– chemotherapy or radiation to head or neck 

Treating Dry Mouth Symptoms at Home

There is not really a way to prevent dry mouth, but—barring an underlying medical condition— symptoms can often be relieved using at-home remedies. Here are some tips to help: 

– stay hydrated, at least 8 oz of water daily 

– avoid alcohol and caffeine which promotes dehydration 

– avoid tobacco which reduces flow of saliva 

– avoid spicy or particularly dry foods (i.e. crackers, cookies)  

– suck on ice cubes 

– limit salt and sugar intake

– use a humidifier in your home or bedroom while you sleep  

– look for over-the-counter artificial saliva, toothpastes, rinses and mints    

– chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy

When To Talk to Your Dentist

It is important to maintain good oral hygiene and keep up biannual visits especially when experiencing dry mouth because a lack of saliva promotes tooth decay. If a dry mouth and throat persists despite at-home remedies to relieve symptoms, it may be time to contact your dentist to make an appointment. Our professional staff at Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert will be able to inspect tissue, measure salivary flow and other indicators to assist in creating a treatment plan that’s right for you.

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