Dry Mouth

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Preventive Measures
Preventive dentistry is the first component in a total treatment plan.

Our preventive care plan begins with a review of your medical history, and other important components, such as:

Regular Check-ups every 3, 4, 6 months
Flouride treatments and sealants Evaluation of existing oral conditions Early intervention to reduce the indidence of dental and oral diseases.

Dentistry Doctors and hygienists help patients understand exactly what their oral health issues are, and what might happen if suggested treatment plans are not followed. Children are taught proper brushing and flossing techniques by our pediatric staff as the very first steps in a lifetime of dental health. We also encourage patients who smoke to quit, providing advice and support as they work to give up this difficult habit.

As part of a preventive plan, we also perform:

  • Complete tooth and gum examination
  • Interpretation of dental x-rays
  • Oral cancer screening
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Evaluation of jaw joint problems

And, should your care involve more than preventive measures, 
our dental specialists are here to provide you the optimum in patient care you need.

Dry mouth.Everybody gets a dry mouth from time to time. Temporary mouth dryness can be brought on by dehydration, stress, or simply the normal reduction in saliva flow at night. But persistent mouth dryness, a condition known as xerostomia, is cause for concern.

Xerostomia occurs when your salivary glands, which normally keep your mouth moist by secreting saliva, are not working properly. A chronic lack of saliva has significant health implications. For one thing, it can be difficult to eat with a dry mouth; tasting, chewing and swallowing may also be affected. This could compromise your nutrition. Also, a dry mouth creates ideal conditions for tooth decay. That's because saliva plays a very important role in keeping decay-causing oral bacteria in check and neutralizing the acids these bacteria produce; it is the acid in your mouth that erodes tooth enamel and starts the decay process. A dry mouth can also cause bad breath.

Possible Causes

There are several possible causes for xerostomia, including:

  • Medications. For most people suffering from dry mouth, medications are to blame. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there are more than 500 medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that have this side effect. Antihistamines (for allergies), diuretics (which drain excess fluid), and antidepressants, are high on the list of medications that cause xerostomia. Chemotherapy drugs can also have this effect.
  • Radiation Therapy. Radiation of the head and neck can damage salivary glands—sometimes permanently. Radiation to treat cancer in other parts of the body will not cause xerostomia.
  • Disease. Some systemic (general body) diseases can cause dry mouth. Sjögren's syndrome, for example, is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own moisture-producing glands in the eyes and mouth. Other diseases known to cause dry mouth include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and AIDS.
  • Nerve Damage. Trauma to the head or neck can damage the nerves involved in the production of saliva.

Getting Relief

If you are taking any medication regularly, it's possible that your physician can either suggest a substitute or adjust the dosage to relieve your symptoms of dry mouth. If this is not possible or has already been tried, here are some other things you can do:

  • Sip fluids frequently. This is particularly helpful during meals. Make sure what you drink does not contain sugar and isn't acidic, as these will both increase your risk of tooth decay. All sodas, including diet varieties, should be avoided, as they are acidic and attack the tooth surface.
  • Chew sugarless gum. This will help stimulate saliva flow if your salivary glands are not damaged. Choose a variety that contains xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that can be protective against tooth decay.
  • Avoid drying/irritating foods and beverages. These include toast and crackers, salty and spicy foods, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • Don't smoke. This can dry out the mouth and also increase your risk of gum disease.
  • Use a humidifier. Running a cool-mist humidifier at night can be soothing.
  • Use saliva stimulants/substitutes. There are prescription and over-the-counter products that can either stimulate saliva or act as a substitute oral fluid. We can give you some recommendations.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste; this will remove bacterial plaque and add minerals to strengthen your teeth. Don't forget to floss.
  • Have an exam/cleaning. If you have dry mouth, it's more important than ever to maintain your regular schedule of visits to the dental office. Please be sure to let us know what medications you are taking, particularly if there have been any changes recently. We will do our best to help relieve any dry-mouth symptoms you are experiencing.

Related Articles

Dry Mouth - Dear Doctor Magazine

Dry Mouth Dry mouth, caused by insufficient saliva flow, is more than a minor annoyance to the millions who suffer from it. That's because saliva helps maintain oral health in a variety of ways. If your mouth is persistently dry, here's what you should know... Read Article