You wake up one fine October morning and find your mouth exceptionally dry. It’s normal; you probably turned on the heat the night before. However, for some people, that uncomfortable feeling is part of everyday life. Here are a few mouth-watering tips to help you manage dry mouth syndrome.
Dry mouth affects everyone, but not equally
We have probably all experienced dry mouth at one time or another. Whether it’s after a spicy meal or an intense workout, dry mouth is a problem that needs to be addressed quickly! Often, a simple glass of water will suffice, but when dry mouth is constant and causes other problems, such as cavities, bad breath or changes in taste, it is no longer a minor issue. Thankfully, there are options to help.
Dry mouth syndrome, also known as xerostomia, is the consequence of a lack of saliva. Saliva is a natural lubricant composed of various substances, such as water, protein and mineral salts. It is essential to a healthy mouth and plays multiple roles:
- It lubricates oral and dental surfaces, allowing you to speak comfortably.
- It facilitates swallowing and digestion.
- It cleanses the mouth and teeth, which reduces the risk of oral and dental diseases. For instance, saliva neutralises the acid produced by dental plaque. It also eliminates dead cells, bacteria and fungus on the tongue, gums and inside the cheeks.
How can I recognize the problems associated with dry mouth?
Many people struggling with dry mouth don’t really notice the problem until it becomes more serious. Here are some symptoms that can appear when someone has dry mouth:
- mucous membrane of the mouth feels dry and sticky;
- dryness and pain in the throat;
- increased thirst;
- dry, red tongue, sometimes with burning and tingling sensation;
- bad breath;
- difficulty speaking, chewing and swallowing;
- changes in taste;
- increased dental problems, such as cavities;
- sores in the mouth, or on and around the lips.
Why is my mouth so dry?
Several potential causes of dry mouth have been identified to this day. Here are the main ones:
- Some medications, for example those used to treat anxiety, depression, pain, urinary incontinence, allergies, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease and psychotic disorders. Your pharmacist is a medication expert who can help you determine whether a medication you are taking is contributing to the problem.
- Some diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer (and its treatment, such as radiation therapy in the head and neck) or cystic fibrosis.
- Age: elderly people have a higher risk of reduced saliva production. In addition, they often use more medication and are more vulnerable to various conditions.
- Dehydration due to fever, vomiting, diarrhea or excess perspiration.
How can I treat dry mouth?
There are several treatment options, but first, you must try to determine the cause of dry mouth. Your pharmacist and doctor can help you do so and take the measures required to alleviate symptoms.
Note that the causal agent of dry mouth cannot always be eliminated. When this is the case, it becomes necessary to use non-medicinal methods to alleviate the symptoms associated with dry mouth and to maintain good oral and dental health.
Non-medicinal methods – also used for prevention
- Protect your teeth by brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste and using a fluoride mouth rinse containing no alcohol.
- Suck on hard candy or chew a piece of sugar-free gum (this promotes the production of saliva).
- Drink more water.
- Avoid or reduce your intake of spicy food, caffeine and alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom.
Regular check-ups at the dentist’s office are also highly recommended to maintain good dental health.
For some people, the above-mentioned methods are not enough to improve the situation, even if they are followed religiously. It then becomes imperative to see a doctor and determine if an underlying cause may be to blame. In certain situations, medication therapy may be appropriate. Some are available over the counter, so your pharmacist will be able to help you make the right choice. Here are some possible solutions:
- modifying the dose of the medication that causes dry mouth, or changing medication;
- using saliva substitutes, which hydrate the mouth’s mucous membrane (some are available without a prescription);
- using prescription medication that increases the production of saliva.
As you can see, there are several ways to remedy the problem of dry mouth and, most often, simple non-medicinal measures are enough to alleviate your symptoms. If the problem persists despite these measures, however, it is important to seek a doctor’s advice in order to maintain good oral and dental health. So don’t waste your breath; talk to the right health professionals at once! They will undoubtedly be able to help you fix this sticky situation.