There’s a reason our mouths create saliva, we need it to moisten and cleanse our mouths and digest food. Saliva also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in our mouth, so what happens when we don’t make enough and our mouth goes dry?
While it mightn’t seem like a serious health issue, the bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease just loves a dry environment. In fact, some research suggests that our risk of heart disease and stroke can increase if we suffer from gum disease.
It seems then that if we leave our dry mouth untreated, the health issues that can arise can be quite serious, but before we can get treatment it might help if we understood what is causing our dry mouth.
Dry mouth is a side effect of certain medications. There are more than 600 prescription and non-prescription drugs that can cause dry mouth. If we are taking medication for the treatment of depression, allergies, epilepsy, obesity, asthma and even the common cold, dry mouth is a common side effect.
In addition to medications, we could suffer dry mouth if we’ve had certain medical treatments, such as radiation to our head and neck and chemotherapy treatments for cancer; or if we’ve had our salivary glands surgically removed.
We might also develop dry mouth as part of the ageing process. Unfortunately, our salivary glands just don’t work as well when we’re in our 60s as they should, which means we make less saliva.
We’ll also develop dry mouth if we are dehydrated. We need to ensure we’re getting enough of that good ol’ H2O in our system otherwise our body will struggle to make sufficient amounts of saliva.
We will also have dry mouth if we have a problem our sinuses or other breathing issues.
How can a dry mouth be treated?
First and foremost we should drink more water, especially if drinking alcohol has caused us to feel particularly parched.
We can also try these other steps, which may boost our saliva flow:
- sucking on sugar-free lollies or chewing on sugar-free gum
- brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, using a fluoride rinse and visiting our dentist regularly
- using a room vaporiser to add moisture to our bedroom air
- using an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute
- breathing through our nose, and not our mouth, as often as possible.
If none of these work we should book an appointment to see our doctor, who might prescribe an oral rinse to restore mouth moisture or medication that can boost our saliva production.
This article originally appeared on Starts at 60.