Dry Mouth

Cosmetic Dentistry in Charleston, WV

At Smith Family Dentistry, our mission is to provide comprehensive, high-quality dental care to the families of Charleston, West Virginia. Much of our work focuses on keeping the teeth healthy and preventing or treating dental decay – but we also provide treatment for other related conditions, like dry mouth. Chronic dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is more than just an irritation. It may signify an underlying dental problem. That's why we're here to help you treat it.

What is Xerostomia?

We all suffer from a dry mouth occasionally, whether form dehydration, stress, or normal fluctuation in saliva production. But when dry mouth persists, it's called xerostomia, and it's a cause for concern. 

Normally, the salivary glands produce saliva to keep the mouth moist. But if those glands stop functioning properly and don't secrete enough saliva, the mouth can feel dry. This is more than just a mild annoyance. Chronic dry mouth can have a variety of repercussions, including:

  • Difficulty Eating: It's harder to chew and swallow with a dry mouth, as saliva helps to break down food before digestion. 
  • Speech Problems: If dry mouth is bad enough, it may even impair speech. At the least, it will amplify the noises your mouth makes normally as a part of speech, which can be irritating. 
  • Bad Breath: Saliva is the mouth's natural cleaning agent, so lack of saliva can contribute to problems like bad breath. 

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Xerostomiamay have a wide range of causes. A few of the most common causes of xerostomia include:

  • Medications: Without a doubt, medication is the most common cause of dry mouth. Over 500 medications can have dry mouth as a side effect, including both over the counter and prescription drugs. Anything from antihistamines to diuretics and antidepressants can cause dry mouth, and dry mouth is also a common side effect of chemotherapy drugs. 
  • Radiation Therapy: If you're getting radiation therapy treatment for cancer or another condition, this may also cause dry mouth. If the treatment involves irradiating the head and neck, it may damage salivary glands and cause dry mouth. 
  • Disease: Some diseases like Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease where the body attacks moisture-producing glands, can cause dry mouth. Other conditions like Parkinson's, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, or AIDS can also cause dry mouth. 
  • Nerve Damage: If you've suffered trauma to the head or neck, this may damage the nerves that regulate production of saliva, potentially causing xerostomia.

How Can I Fix Dry Mouth?

If your dry mouth is caused by a medication or medical condition, talk with your doctor about ways to manage the side effects. In addition, there are several at-home remedies you can try to get relief from dry mouth:

  • Drinking Frequently: Sipping on tap water or other non-acidic, sugar-free beverages is a great way to control dry mouth. This is especially true during meals, which can often be when dry mouth is at its worst.
  • Sugarless Gum: Chewing gum stimulates salivary flow, so chewing a piece of sugar-free gum can help to alleviate dry mouth. It's important that the gum uses xylitol instead of sugar, as sugar can cause tooth decay. 
  • Avoid Certain Foods or Beverages: Any dry or dehydrated food can make dry mouth worse, as can acidic, alcoholic, or caffeinated drink. You also may want to avoid spicy foods, as these can inflame xerostomia. 
    Avoid Smoking: Smoking dries out the mouth and can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, so it's best to avoid smoking if you suffer from xerostomia. 
  • Try a Humidifier: Using a humidifier can help soothe dry mouth, especially at night. 
  • Synthetic Saliva: Some over-the-counter and prescription products can work to replace or stimulate salivary production. Talk with us about you symptoms and we can provide recommendations on what to look for. 
  • Keep Up Your Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can make dry mouth worse, so make sure you're maintaining a regular schedule of brushing and flossing. 
  • Schedule a Dental Exam & Cleaning: In addition to at-home oral hygiene, your regular dental check-up and cleaning appointments are vital to keeping your teeth healthy and controlling dry mouth. During your appointment, we can also talk with you about your symptoms, make recommendations for treatments, and try to uncover any underlying causes for your dry mouth. 

Schedule an Appointment with Your Charleston Cosmetic Dentist

Dry mouth can range from a temporary annoyance to a chronic, serious health problem – but no matter how severe your dry mouth, we're here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help alleviate your dry mouth and to schedule an appointment for a checkup. We look forward to hearing from you, and we wish you luck in fighting xerostomia!