Have you ever considered that you may one day have dry mouth? Well as it turns out, 1 in 10 Americans take at least three prescription drugs per day, and dry mouth is among the most common side effects of medication. As a result, close to 50% of Americans aged 65 or older experience dry mouth. Even if this condition hasn’t affected you or your family personally, Dr. Jim Ed Watson wants you to understand why dry mouth is a real health concern and what to do about it.
Dry Mouth: the Facts
The all-important saliva in your mouth is produced by several different glands located beneath the mouth and within the jaw. Salivary glands are responsible for an astonishing 48 ounces of saliva per day. When your mouth waters right before that first bite of a juicy steak, it’s because all three types of these glands are working together in perfect harmony to aid in the first step of the digestion process. When one or more of these glands malfunction you may find yourself with an irritating case of xerostomia, or dry mouth, and the feeling of a healthy, normal mouth could disappear.
Why does it happen? The most common cause is prescription medication. Several hundred medications are capable of causing xerostomia, and they range from sleeping aids, to blood pressure stabilizers, to diet pills, antidepressants and more. That being said, there a number of other factors that may lead to dry mouth. If you find yourself with a sudden case of dry mouth and no new prescription to blame it on, consult your Jackson physician for help in tracking down the culprit.
Why does it Matter?
Saliva is your friend. Its chemical components and beneficial bacteria make it possible for your body to turn food into fuel, and it is the first line of defense for your gums and teeth. Dr. Watson reminds us that dry mouth puts you in danger of tooth decay, gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss, not to mention horrendous breath. If that’s not enough, those problems can result in costly and painful situations down the road. We at Jackson Center for Smiles want you to keep all your teeth, so be wary of dry mouth!
What to Do if You Have Dry Mouth
Alright, now that you’ve heard the scary part, you can relax, because xerostomia is generally an easy fix. Follow these steps to get your mouth back in shape:
1) Talk to your general practitioner! It is most likely a medication issue and a simple switch could clear the problem right up. If not, it’s even more important to see your doctor.
2) Take frequent sips of water or sugar-free beverages during your day.
3) Welcome the saliva back into your mouth by offering the challenge of very chewy foods.
4) Keep a pack of sugarless gum with you and pop in a piece whenever your mouth gets dry.
5) Most importantly, listen to Dr. Watson and floss and brush twice a day. Oral hygiene is a crucial component of protecting yourself from just about every problem that affects your mouth.
6) Rinse out your mouth right after eating high-sugar snacks and use an alcohol-free mouthwash.
Dry mouth can be a serious problem, but it doesn’t have to be. Jackson Center for Smiles cares about our patients and we want you all to have happy, healthy mouths. Call us with any questions you might have and make sure to see Dr. Watson for your regular check-ups!