As a dentist, every day I see patients with symptoms of dry mouth or a patient reporting dry mouth. Dry mouth or Xerostomia can be mild, undetected by patients, to severe where the dryness is described as a tongue and palate feeling like sandpaper. Literature estimates dry mouth affects 1 in 4 adults in the population.
Dry mouth is particular bad with my patients who are on numerous medications with side effect of dry mouth like high blood pressure, cholesterol, and anti-depressants, just to name a few. Polypharmacy, defined as taking three or more medications, is a major contributor to dry mouth. The act of smoking also has a drying effect. Cancer treatment (especially head and neck radiation) can diminish salivary flow called hyposalivation.
Saliva has a protective function which includes maintaining a neutral oral pH, cleaning and remineralizing the teeth, facilitating swallowing and digestion, protecting oral tissues against dryness and invasion by microorganism like fungus.
Symptoms of dry mouth vary from person to person and changing health status. The symptoms include:
- bad breath
- sticky, dry or sore mouth
- cracking at the corners of the mouth
- red or parched mouth
- blister or ulcers
- pebbled look of tongue
- difficulty eating dry or spicy foods
- difficulty speaking
- thirsty at night
While drinking water may help with the symptoms of dry mouth, it is not a solution. Although saliva is 99% water, the 1% contains the most amazing ingredients-secretory proteins, immunoglobulins, electrolytes, antibodies and wound healing components.
A simple assessment of the condition of dry mouth starts with these questions: Do you feel the amount of saliva in your mouth is too little? Does your mouth feel dry when eating a meal? Do you sip liquids to aid in swallowing dry food? Do you have difficulty swallowing? A positive response is an indication of the possibility of dry mouth and further investigation.
Often times, I will see an increase of cavities during a dental exam. Dental cavities are a plaque-induced pH specific disease. A hole in the tooth is the outcome of the disease process. To stay healthy, the mouth needs to maintain proper balance. Enamel breakdown starts when the pH falls below 5.5. Saliva functions to maintain neutral oral pH. Reduced salivary flow or hyposalivation also reduces it buffering effect.
Come in for an exam and we can chat more about any dry mouth–or other dental concerns–that you may have. Call Dorosti Family Dental today to schedule an appointment 740-562-6148.
Post by Dr. Yassamin Dorosti