Xerostomia is the medical term for dryness in the mouth. While it’s difficult to gauge the prevalence of dry mouth, sources within the American Academy of Pain Management’s The Pain Practitioner figure it to be around 17% to 29%, and significantly more common women. Dry mouth may not seem like a serious condition, but chronic dry mouth can be a huge detriment to daily life. Saliva is used to taste, swallow, digest, discourage tooth decay, and fight against fungal growth in the mouth. Chronic dry mouth, which leads to insufficient saliva production, can contribute to irritation of the mouth, bad breath, and dental cavities.
The majority of xerostomia cases are the side effect of medication. The classes of medication that cause dry mouth the most are antidepressants, antihistamines, antispasmodics, skeletal muscle relaxants, and opioid analgesics. The xerostomic effects of medication are stack on each other, which is why elderly patients report xerostomia more often.
How to Treat Xerostomia
Though saliva is 99% water, the other components of saliva are vital to moisture in the mouth and guarding against xerostomia. Buffers, enzymes, proteins, and mucins create the base for a strong and healthy mouth, and good digestion. There are two main ways of treating dry mouth: stimulating saliva locally and artificial saliva substitutes. Stimulating saliva comes in the form of chewing sugar-free gum or lozenges, as well as sprays and gels for the mouth. One of the newer ways to stimulate saliva are oral adhesive discs in the mouth, which take time to disintegrate and last longer in the mouth.
Here are some quick tips to combat Xerostomia.
- Practice good dental hygiene at home, and utilize fluoride-containing products
- Hydrate frequently with water, sugarless soda, or ice chips
- Avoid sticky and sugary candy that may promote dental cavities
- Enlist the help of dental professionals in cleaning
- Use a vaporize at night, especially if you breath with your mouth during sleep
- Tobacco, caffeinated products, and alcohol may worsen xerostomia
- For those with dentures, soak them in 0.2% chlorohexidine or diluted bleach products
- Acidic foods and salty or spicy foods may create dry mouth
- Avoid sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste, as it may aggravate chronic dry mouth
- Sugar-free gum or sugar-free hard candy may help with xerostomia
According to The Pain Practitioner, diagnosing dry mouth starts from the simple of question of whether or not a patient has experienced bouts of dry mouth. From that, providers can look at the prescription history of a patient (prescription analysis), and discontinue any non-essential medicine which cause dry mouth. Because, as mentioned previously, xerostimic side effects compound on each other. If medicine cannot be completely taken out of a patient’s regiment, prescribing different medicine is an available option.
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