07 May Xerostomia – The villain known as DRY MOUTH
by House Call Dentists
Seniors often suffer from Dry Mouth, which is a lack of sufficient saliva, making your mouth feel like a desert. However, Dry Mouth is not a normal part of aging.
Why is it a problem?
Your mouth produces up to 1 liter of saliva every day to help keep your mouth moist and healthy. Saliva is 99% water and acts to wash sticky, decay-producing food away from the most decay vulnerable area of the tooth – the root!
Without enough saliva to wash away bacteria, people are more likely to develop bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. They also might find it hard to speak or chew and they may notice food doesn’t taste like it used to.
How to be a Dry Mouth detective:
If you’re caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, ask these questions…
- Are they taking any of the following medications that have a side effect of dry mouth: antihistamines, anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, diuretics, high blood pressure drugs, pain killers or any of the other 500 over the counter & prescribed drugs that dry up saliva?
- Do they have Sjogren’s syndrome? A disorder of the immune system identified by its two most common symptoms — dry eyes and a dry mouth.
- Have they had chemotherapy or radiation therapy of the head and neck?
By the time an individual notices they have Dry Mouth symptoms, they have already lost 50% of their saliva flow! Which means, it’s been going on for too long!
How to get relief:
- Sipping water or sugarless drinks often and during meals.
- Avoiding drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow— citrus, cinnamon or mint-flavored candies.
- Ask the physician if any of your patient’s medications produce Dry Mouth.
- Ask a dentist about products for Dry Mouth.
Since Dry Mouth is particularly pervasive among seniors, and many Alzheimer’s patients can’t communicate their issues, it’s important to monitor the oral health and eating habits of those suffering from Alzheimer’s. If you suspect the discomfort of Dry Mouth, or the severe decay it can induce, learn more about special needs dentistry.