Xerostomia. That’s the scientific name for the condition colloquially known as “dry mouth.” Why does “dry mouth” need its own special scientific name? It’s because it is a medical condition that ranges in severity to mild discomfort and the desire to drink immediately, to a significant medical condition that could compromise your quality of life.
What Causes Xerostomia?
Everyone gets dry mouth every once in a while. But those with Xerostomia have some underlying condition that prevents them from producing enough saliva. Typically, this condition is related to radiation or chemotherapy. In other words, it’s a product of cancer treatment. In other cases, the cause can be more subtle.
Unless you have dry mouth frequently, you shouldn’t be overly concerned. It can be treated with a tall glass of water. But if it is chronic or persistent, then it could be related to a new medication, an autoimmune disorder, an infection, or diabetes.
Xerostomia Increases the Rate of Tooth Decay
Your saliva provides enzymes that begin aiding the digestion process immediately. The main enzyme, ptyalin, begins breaking down sugars and starches immediately in your mouth. The saliva also helps dissolve small food particles that become lodged in the teeth. In other words, the digestion process happens immediately and continues to happen several hours after you’ve finished eating.
But those with Xerostomia aren’t producing enough saliva, which is why their mouth is dry. They will not continue to break down food particles that are lodged in their teeth and they may have other problems as well. For instance, they may have difficulty swallowing and lose their sense of taste. The plaque buildup in their gums decreases and eventually, their teeth demineralize causing them to become weaker.
Dealing With Persistent Xerostomia
The first part of dealing with Xerostomia is figuring out what’s causing it. However, there are some basic lifestyle tips that will help if there is nothing else that can be done. These include sipping water to keep your mouth hydrated, chewing sugar-free gum, avoiding salty foods and spicy foods, and avoiding sticky or sugary foods. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine help as well.
Dentists also recommend that brush twice a day and floss regularly. Since your saliva won’t be doing the job of breaking down food in your mouth, you’ll need to get rid of the food particles left behind yourself.
There are, of course, other means of dealing with low saliva output, but these will require prescriptions from your doctor. Some oral saliva supplements are available over the counter.
Xerostomia may seem like a minor condition, but like most minor conditions, left untreated it can have severe health consequences that include increasing the risk of stroke or heart disease.
Talk to a Dry Mouth Dentist in Flagstaff Today
If you’re experiencing dry mouth or any other medical condition related to your mouth, contact the Flagstaff, AZ dentists at Peak Family Dental Care today to learn more about how we can help.