Dry Mouth & Dentures

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Saliva and oral health:


Dry mouth (also called Xerostomia) in most individuals is most commonly a side-effect of medications.  A decrease in saliva production can also result from chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some diseases.  It is absolutely imperative that patients have their dentists find the cause of their dry mouth in order for the condition to be treated properly.  Most people with Xerostomia do not even know they have it until they have lost as much as 50 percent of their saliva. 

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While many people believe saliva may appear to be only water, this is far from the facts.  Saliva is actually a part of the bodys immune system and contains hundreds of chemicals that make it possible for a person to speak, chew, and swallow their food more comfortably.  It also works to inhibit bacteria that cause oral infections.


Oral lubricants:

There are medical products that can be taken to replace saliva.  Many pharmacists call them artificial saliva, but most dentists prefer to call them oral lubricants.  Needless to say, science to date has not yet been able to create a substance that can truly replicate all of the functions of saliva.  However, many people feel that oral lubricants make their mouth feel more comfortable.  Some lubricants can be purchased in spray bottles.  Many people even use water.  It is best to let a dentist recommend which oral lubricant is best.  


Eating with a dry mouth:

If a patient wears dentures, he or she may have a number of problems if there is a deficiency in saliva production.  Due to inadequate lubrication, the person will have difficulty chewing and swallowing foodsparticularly dry foods.  To a certain extent, gravies, sauces, and taking frequent sips of water can alleviate some of this problem.  An oral lubricant can also be used a few minutes before eating.  Dentures must be removed prior to using the lubricant so it can coat the parts of the gums that support the dentures.  The dentures can then be placed back in the mouth. 


Dry mouth and denture "fit":

Saliva is necessary for holding dentures to gums.  Dentists call this denture retention.  When the mouth is dry, dentures feel loose.  This condition worsens when supporting tissues beneath the dentures continue to shrink for the rest of the persons life.  The amount of shrinkage will vary from person to person.  As gums shrink, the dentures and the gums become mismatched.  This happens a bit at a time, but even a small change in denture fit becomes increasingly noticeable when the mouth is dry. 


Most people notice this more with their lower dentures.  It is much easier to wear dentures on the upper arch because of the way the gums are sized and shaped.  As shrinkage occurs, a person many need to have his or her denture remade or relined more often than a person with normal amounts of saliva.  Denture relinement is a procedure where additional denture material has to be added to the part of the denture that contacts the gums.  This makes the denture fit closely and conform to the shape of the mouth. 


However, even if there is a perfect fit, the patient may still experience some looseness due to the lack of saliva.  In this case, it may be necessary to use a denture adhesive to.  There are many types available.  The best source of information on choosing the best one for you will be your dentist. 


Not only patients you feel an increasing sensation of looseness, but they may also develop sore spots beneath their dentures when there is less saliva.  Without the natural lubrication needed, there is an increase in friction between the dry denture and the gum.  This will create a sore spot.  The dentist should check to make sure that denture fit is as close as possible.  Then, if no adjustment needs to be made to the denture, an oral lubricant or a denture adhesive can be applied. 


Continued problems will require additional visits to the dentist.  The patient may ultimately need dental implants.  It has been proven that replacing dentures with implants has greatly improved the quality of life for thousands of people.  This is because dental implants are almost identical to natural teeth in both function and appearance. 


Dry mouth and oral infections:

Because saliva limits bacteria in the mouth, dry mouth will make you an individual more prone to mouth infections.  Candida, a yeast-like fungus, often attacks those who wear dentures.  One such infection it causes is denture stomatitis.  This infection occurs more commonly under the upper denture, particularly in people who have dry mouth and wear their dentures to bed.  Most cases do not cause enough pain for people to notice, however, and may not be detected for years.


When denture stomatitis is detected, it has to be eliminated before new dentures can be made.  The dentist may have to treat the mouth with both tissue conditioners and antifungal medications to do this. 


There is also angular cheilitis, another infection caused by Candida.  It causes sores to develop around the corners of the mouth.  It can be treated with antifungal medications. 


Patients with natural teeth are more likely to have tooth decay resulting in tooth loss if they have dry mouth.  Without saliva to limit the germs that cause decay, bacteria will multiply more rapidly and cause greater damage.  Ask the dentist for ways to prevent and reduce tooth decay. 

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Houston Cosmetic Dentistry is a specialized field that requires extensive knowledge and experience to be done correctly. The Medical Center Dental Group in Houston, Texas brings all of that and more to the direct benefit of each and every patient we treat. Although we are located in the world famous Houston Medical Center at Scurlock Towers, we routinely see dental patients who travel from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Beaumont and Midland Texas to see Dr. Dale Brant, Dr. Charles Campbell or Dr. Elizabeth OSullivan-Winslow for their cosmetic dentistry services.

Summarized from Dry mouth and Dentures

By Randy F. Huffines, DDS 2009 

Related Topics:

Back to main topic: Implant Dentistry
Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures
Patient Instructions For Dentures
Dental Root Caries
Scaling and Root Planing
Oral Healthcare Breakthrough Fluoride
Periodontal Disease Treatment

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