Dry mouth is caused by an inadequate flow of saliva. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect caused by gland problems, mouth breathing, or certain medications (allergy antihistamines, cold decongestants, pain killers, and others). It is also a side effect of diseases or medical problems such as Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Dry mouth is especially prevalent in seniors due to the large number of medications that have a side effect of dry mouth. This can be harmful to keeping a healthy mouth as age increases, but a dentist can help to manage the effects of dry mouth.
Medications and Oral Health
As adults age, they go through a second round of cavity susceptibility, which is often attributed to naturally-receding gums and worn-out fillings. However, medications are one of the most common reasons for an increase in cavities in seniors.
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications. Since dry mouth prevents saliva from performing its natural job of rinsing away harmful bacteria between meals, an increase in plaque is common in older adults. This plaque can result in rapid tooth decay.
How to Alleviate Dry Mouth
There are a few ways to help lessen the side effects of dry mouth, especially as caused by medication. You can also ask a dentist for additional recommendations for your specific case.
Here are a few ways to help lessen the effects of dry mouth:
- Use over-the-counter oral moisturizers, like spray or mouthwash
- Drink more water
- Use lozenges or sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production
- Get a humidifier to help keep moisture in the air
- Avoid foods and beverages that irritate dry mouths such as coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and acidic fruit juices
- Ask your physician if you can adjust the dosage or take a different medication
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