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Everybody gets a dry mouth (also called xerostomia) on occasion, whether it’s when you first wake up in the morning because you slept with your mouth open or when you are dehydrated on a hot summer afternoon. Generally speaking, if you sporadically get a dry mouth, it’s nothing to worry about. However, if it becomes a chronic problem, then a visit to the dentist is necessary to treat dry mouth.
Dry mouth is not only irritating, it can also lead to more cavities. This is due to the fact that with dry mouth, you are not producing enough saliva, which contains antibodies that fight bacteria. Saliva also helps to wash away food that can get stuck on or between your teeth. As we age and take various medications, the resulting side-effects of dry mouth combined with recession of the gums can also lead to root decay.
If you feel like you never seem to have enough saliva in your mouth, then it’s time to find out why. Common causes of dry mouth include:
Certain cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy,
Salivary gland infection,
Alcohol intake, and
Some of the causes are self-limiting, meaning that dry mouth will resolve itself when a medication or drug therapy is discontinued. Other causes, such as aging, present a more long-term problem that must be addressed by a dentist.
At your initial New Patient Exam, Dr. Hsu will examine your mouth and salivary glands to see if there’s any obvious cause for your dry mouth, such as tissue damage, cysts, etc. If dry mouth presents as a problem for you, he will likely also ask questions about your lifestyle, including the amount of alcohol you drink, as alcohol is well-known for drying out the mouth.
In many cases, our dental team will recommend simple lifestyle changes that will help with the problem. Such changes might include avoiding alcohol and caffeine, switching to a sugar-free gum, using a humidifier at night, or drinking more water. If medications are the cause, then you will need to discuss alternative medicines or the possibility of discontinuing your medication to resolve the dry mouth issue. Sometimes your dentist can prescribe medications that will stimulate the salivary glands. There are also over-the-counter options available that we may recommend, depending on your individual case.
To tackle the dry mouth issue head-on, you need to find a preventative dentist who will effectively remove plaque from your teeth and coach you on how to remove plaque yourself, thus limiting the occurrence of dry mouth. In fact, keeping your gums and teeth healthy is important for overall health. Our team here at Wellness Centered Dentistry emphasizes the power of personal care and proper patient education to help minimize problems such as dry mouth that can result from simply being misinformed on the best at-home care practices for you.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, call us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hsu. We will get to the root of your dry mouth and recommend treatments. Call Wellness Centered Dentistry today at (425) 882-1354.
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