June 28, 2018
Xerostomia is the scientific name for dry mouth. No matter what you call it, though, it’s an unpleasant condition. Its symptoms include a burning sensation in your mouth or tongue, mouth sores, dry or cracked lips, bad breath, and problems chewing or swallowing food.
Even worse, dry mouth can cause lead to serious dental damage. Saliva helps move food debris away from your teeth and gums. It also contains minerals that strengthen teeth and help protect them from decay. So it’s one of your mouth’s best defenses against tooth decay.
In addition to cavities, a shortage of saliva also makes you more susceptible to gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.
Dr. Steven Airey can repair cavities with fillings or other dental restorations. And he can eliminate gum disease too, with treatments like scaling and root planing. But preventing these problems from occurring in the first place is easier and less expensive.
When you come in for dental exams, we’re happy to discuss dry mouth or anything else affecting your oral health. We can also suggest products that may help, like mouth rinses or artificial saliva.
To talk to Dr. Airey about dry mouth, or anything else, call Appalachian Dental Care at 828-355-5673.
Why Dry Mouth Gets Worse in Summer
Because your body typically produces less saliva in summer months and high temperatures can also worsen symptoms, you’re more likely to experience dry mouth in summer months. Activities like vacations and cookouts don’t help because many of us relax our usual oral hygiene habits while traveling. We eat out more too, and may indulge in more unhealthy foods. Swimming in salt water or chlorine can also aggravate dry mouth.
Both sugary and acidic beverages can cause erosion of tooth enamel, leaving teeth more susceptible to cavities. So that’s a problem if you quench your thirst with sugary drinks like soda or acidic drinks like lemonade or fruit juice.
Finally, many of us suffer from allergies in warm weather. They can worsen dry mouth too, because you breathe more through your mouth when your nasal passages are blocked.
What You Can Do to Fight Dry Mouth
Fortunately, countering the effects of summer isn’t too difficult. Ninety-nine percent of saliva is water, so drinking more of it is an important way to replenish. In the summer, you should drink at least two liters of water a day, more if you are perspiring a lot.
Here are some other tips for fighting dry mouth in the summer – or any time:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Ones high in water content, like watermelon, cucumbers, and tomatoes, are especially good. If possible, rinse your mouth with water after you consume acidic fruits or fruit juice.
- Lower your consumption of diuretics. Caffeine is a diuretic, as is alcohol. It’s best to limit your consumption of both.
- Suck on sugar-free mints. This helps spur saliva production. And you’ll have fresher breath too.
- Use a lip balm. This will make you more comfortable if your lips are dry or cracked.
- Give up smoking and other tobacco products.
- Use a room humidifier at night.
Medications and Dry Mouth
If you visit Dr. Airey to discuss your dry mouth, he’ll likely ask about medications you are taking. Hundreds of medications, including common ones like muscle relaxants, antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants, dry out your mouth. That’s one reason why seniors tend to suffer more from dry mouth than other age groups; they take more medications.
Dr. Airey may suggest that you talk to your physician about switching to medications that may be less likely to cause dry mouth or adjusting the dosage of your existing meds. Sometimes it’s not difficult to make a change.
In addition to medication, dry mouth can be caused by:
- Medical conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes
- Tobacco usage
- Radiation and chemotherapy treatments
To make an appointment at Appalachian Dental Care, call 828-355-5673.