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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nahid Afshari

Dry Mouth and the risks of not getting it treated

Perhaps you or someone you know may have Dry Mouth and not be aware of it or of the risks of not getting it treated. Dry Mouth is when the mouth doesn’t make enough saliva to perform its vital functions such as controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth which helps to prevent infections and tooth decay. It is also helps to start the digestion of the food that you eat.

Some common symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Frequent thirst

  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth

  • A dry, red, raw tongue

  • Sores in the mouth, split skin or sores at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips.

  • A dry feeling in the throat

  • Bad Breath

  • A burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, especially on the tongue

There are many conditions that can cause dry mouth. Here are some of them:

Medications – In my experience prescription drugs and non-prescription drugs have been one of the more common causes of dry mouth.

Diseases – Certain diseases such as diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease to name a few.

Damage to the salivary glands – Medical treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy to the neck can damage the salivary glands. Of course there can also be a situation where the salivary glands have to be removed.

Nerve Damage – A person could suffer nerve damage from a head or neck injury that could cause the saliva glands to not function or not function properly.

Dehydration – This would include dehydration from illnesses or conditions that cause fever, vomiting, excessive sweating, etc.

If you suspect you have dry mouth you should get in to see your doctor as soon as possible so you can get properly diagnosed and treated. Some of the treatments for dry mouth are:

  • Hydration – drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist.

  • Brushing – brush with a fluoride toothpaste, use a fluoride rinse.

  • Breathing – breath through your nose, not your mouth, as much as possible.

  • Humidifier – Use a humidifier to add moisture to the bedroom air.

  • Saliva Substitutes – Over-the-counter products that help substitute for the lack of saliva.

From a dental perspective, not treating dry mouth can cause some serious damage to your teeth.

I have experienced that many people with dry mouth do not realize just how it can cause multiple cavities because the bacteria in the mouth is not kept under control due to lack of saliva.

I had one case where I had seen a patient and treated her for regular dental work. However, that same year she became seriously ill and had to breathe through an oxygen mask for some months. This caused her mouth to be very dry. About a year later she came in to see me complaining of a lot of pain in her teeth. I was literally shocked after taking x-rays and seeing just how much damage had been done in just one year! Her teeth had decayed so badly that her whole mouth was destroyed and she had to have all her teeth pulled and be fitted for dentures.

On that note, dry mouth can also make it difficult to wear dentures when there is not enough saliva to act as a sort of cushion between the gums and the dentures.

So, whatever the cause may be of dry mouth it is important to consult your M.D. and get it treated as well as schedule with your Dentist for regular checkups and any dental treatment you need. I cannot over emphasize that in the case of dry mouth preventative dental treatment is crucial!

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