Dry mouth is a lack of saliva that results in a variety of uncomfortable and/or painful symptoms. Lack of saliva causes taste buds to sense differently, so the first thing a person may notice is food tasting differently. Without the lubricating effects of saliva, plaque will often build up on teeth, increasing the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. What saliva is produced will often feel thick or even stringy, and a person will have difficulty talking and find it hard, or even painful, to swallow. Dry mouth also causes sore throat and sores at the corner of the mouth. Sometimes the skin around the mouth splits and the lips even crack. Due to the lack of fluid in the mouth and the increase in bacteria and plaque on the teeth, bad breath is often very common as well.
Dry mouth occurs when normal saliva secretions are dramatically reduced. Healthy salivary glands should produce around 3 pints of saliva a day. Saliva provides a number of dental benefits in addition to its obvious function in helping chew food and prepare it for digestion. Saliva constantly cleans the surfaces of teeth and helps to prevent the buildup of plaque. There are also minerals present in saliva that strengthen teeth against tooth decay. It also discourages bacteria from attaching to teeth and thus helps preserve tooth enamel and protect against gum disease. Saliva is alkaline in nature and neutralizes natural acids that can damage mouth tissues.
Dry mouth has several causes. Natural aging is one of these, because as a person gets older the salivary glands secrete less. However, severe dry mouth at a younger age is most likely the side effect of both prescription and over the counter medications. Drugs used to treat anxiety and depression rank high on the list of those that can produce dry mouth. High blood pressure medicine, muscle relaxers, and antidiuretics often cause this condition. Chemotherapy treatment has a tendency to change the nature and amount of saliva produced, and cancer radiation therapy can actually damage salivary glands. Neck injuries that injure nerves can affect the salivary glands as well.
Sometimes simply the presence of a pronounced health condition is all it takes to trigger dry mouth. Individuals who suffer from anxiety and clinical depression often have inconsistent or reduced salivary production. Conditions that affect the brain, such as strokes and Alzheimers disease, can also reduce saliva production. Autoimmune disease and diabetes are also two other known causes of the condition.
If you think you may have dry mouth, you should consult with a dentist to study your case history and examine your mouth. It may be necessary as well to do a cat scan on the salivary glands or have some blood drawn for testing. Be sure to tell your dentist about ALL medical conditions you are suffering from and all medications you are taking.
If the dentist concludes you have dry mouth because of medication, it may be possible to try switching medicines or altering the dosage. There are also drugs the dentist can prescribe that will help you produce more saliva.
Additionally, your dentist will recommend any number of self-care options that will require lifestyle change on your part. Eliminating sugar and acidic substances from the diet is almost always the first thing dentist asks you to do. Quitting smoking helps everything, including problems with dry mouth. Increasing the amount of water you drink will help remedy dry mouth, and rigorous brushing and flossing will help protect teeth that have become vulnerable to decay because of dry mouth. It may be necessary to use a special fluoride toothpaste or gel for this, so be sure to Ask the Dentist about this.
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 Midland and Houston, Texas to see Dr. Dale Brant, Dr. Charles Campbell or Dr. Elizabeth OSullivan-Winslow for their cosmetic denistry services.
For any other questions related to cosmetic dentistry, you can Contact Us at 713.795.5905, visit our Dental Blog or Ask the Dentist