Decrease of saliva in the mouth is known as dry mouth or Xerostomia. This can happen for a number of reasons, and sometimes you may not even notice. Dry mouth can range from slight to severe. Even if you don’t notice your dry mouth, your dentist or hygienist might. Some causes of dry mouth are:
- Side effect of medications
- Head & neck radiation
- Result of disease ( i.e., Sjogren’s Syndrome, Hypertension, Diabetes, HIV/AIDS,
Hepatitis C and/or Lymphoma)
- Mouth breathing
Saliva plays an important role in the mouth. Keeping tissues moist and lubricated helps prevent disease. Saliva acts as a shield to acids in the mouth to prevent cavities. It also helps us chew, talk and swallow. We are at a much greater risk of developing tooth decay, when saliva is reduced.
Identifying the cause of xerostomia is required before treatment can be started. If it’s due to a medication side effect, your dentist and/or hygienist can work with your physician to find a good alternative. Xerostomia as a result of smoking would clearly be helped by quitting smoking. If you’re a mouth breather, possible referral to an ENT may be helpful. If there isn’t much to be done to “cure” the dry mouth, there are steps that need to be taken to decrease the occurrence of decay at a high rate. These include but are not limited to:
- Increasing fluoride via toothpaste, rinse and/or take home trays.
- Maintaining periodic hygiene visits
- Managing diet to decrease sugar intake.
- Using a source of xylitol
- Increasing water consumption
- Practicing good oral hygiene
If dry mouth is not addressed, an individual may go from no cavities to many cavities in a matter of months, and from there the decay is much harder to control. If you feel that you have dry mouth whether or not you know the cause, bring it up at your next dental check up. The sooner it is addressed the better we are able to preserve your teeth!
American Academy of Oral Medicine https://www.aaom.com/index.php%3Foption=com_content&view=article&id=107:xerostomia&catid=22:patient-condition-information&Itemid=120