Dry mouth is a common and if not addressed, can have devastating consequences to your dental health. Tooth discomfort and bleeding gums are easily recognized as symptoms of dental problems like cavities and gum disease. There are many other warning signs that could be telling you that your smile is in trouble. Chronic dry mouth and bad breath, for instance, are two common warning signs that the teeth or gums could be in jeopardy. So don’t ignore potential symptoms. Instead, talk to your dentist about how your smile’s health could be protected and even restored.
What Does Dry Mouth Mean?
One commonly overlooked indicator that the smile’s health could be in jeopardy is chronic dry mouth. Not only can this be irritating and contribute to bad breath, but it is caused when saliva is not being produced regularly.
What many people don’t realize is that saliva is a natural defense against plaque buildup. When it is missing or reduced, patients become more likely to struggle with cavities, gum disease and other problems.
In some cases, dehydration could be to blame for chronic dry mouth. However, dry mouth is often a side effect of medications patients are taking.
Chronic bad breath can also be indication of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. It is a condition caused by bacteria leading to inflammation, irritation and eventually an infection of the gums.
Dry Mouth in Seniors
A common dental health condition among seniors, dry mouth is often caused by certain medications such as for high blood pressure. Chronic dry mouth, can contribute to a variety of dental health issues like tooth decay, foul breath, and gum disease. This occurs because the mouth needs saliva to wash away bacteria and acid formation that cause harm to your teeth and gums. At a dental checkup, your dentist can help you determine the cause of your xerostomia and how you can alleviate dry mouth while preventing dental health issues.
What causes decreased salivary flow?
Dry mouth is often associated with aging, but that’s a misconception. Side affects from medications that seniors take can cause dental problems. The most common cause of dry mouth is medication. In fact, over 400 types of medication are connected to the condition. Common drugs that can lead to xerostemia include: antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, analgesics, blood pressure medicines, and sedatives.
Many health conditions can cause dry mouth, including:
- Nerve damage
- Radiation therapy
- Decreased salivary flow is a part of aging
- HIV aids causes the swelling of the saliva glands which reduces outflow
- Side effect of certain medications taken for things such as HIV and incontinence
- Alzheimers disease reduces the natural signals of thirst and these patients often get dehydrated.
- Sjögren s syndrome
What Symptoms Does Dry Mouth Cause?
If you suffer from dry mouth, you could experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Thickened saliva
- Mouth irritation
- Cracked lips
- Chronic halitosis (bad breath)
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or speaking
- Mouth sores
- Dry or sore throat
- Altered sense of taste
- Dry nasal passages
- Increased plaque
- Burning sensation in mouth
What happens when you have dry mouth?
When the salivary glands produce less, the beneficial effects of saliva are lost. Saliva washes away food particles. Without removal of leftover food, fighting gum disease becomes a problem. Saliva also prevents tooth decay.
Other problems associated with xerostomia
Extreme xerostomia can cause significant oral disease that can challenge the patient’s health with oral infections. It can decrease the ability to eat a diverse diet and hurts the overall quality of life.
How to respond to decreased salivary flow?
Xerostemia is an uncomfortable condition. Fortunately, many treatments exist to alleviate its symptoms. A variety of products, including saliva stimulating medications and prescription toothpastes are available from dentists. You might also speak to your physician about a medication change.
On your own, you can purchase sugar free candies and gums which can help stimulate saliva production. Try to drink plenty of water or sugar free drinks. Staying hydrated can help keep your mouth wet.
In any of these cases, prompt dental care is the best way to protect the teeth and gums, and to restore the oral health. Learn how to prevent the serious oral health problems that dry mouth can cause. Call our Lake Forest, IL, dental practice today at 847.234.0517. We provide general and cosmetic dental services to patients in the North Shore suburbs of the greater Chicago area.