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Dry Mouth (cont.)

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What are the signs and symptoms of dry mouth?

People complaining of dry mouth may have trouble speaking, eating, tasting food, and swallowing. Frequently, a dry mouth may be most manifest at night, especially in mouth-breathers. The dryness may cause chapped or cracked lips or cause a persistent cough. They may complain of sores in their mouth, or a white tongue indicative of a fungal infection like yeast (candidiasis). A burning tongue or throat, periodontitis, ulcers, sores, and inflamed soft tissue are also all effects of oral dryness. Without a sufficient quantity of saliva to wash food particles off teeth, neutralize acids in the mouth, and battle the bacteria population, a person frequently develops multiple cavities – especially around the gum line.

What is the treatment for dry mouth?

When dry mouth is noticed, the dentist can be helpful to obtain a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis will help in developing a plan for management and treatment. The person should incorporate a low-sugar diet and begin daily use of fluoride treatments and antimicrobial rinses to combat the effects oral dryness have on the teeth and oral tissues. When selecting a mouthwash, the person must choose a product that doesn't contain alcohol, such as Biotene, for alcohol-based products will only cause further mouth dryness.

The person must drink water more frequently throughout the day, especially while eating. Chewing gum can help stimulate salivary flow, but it is important to remember not to use gum or candies that have sugar in them or the person will be placed at greater risk for developing cavities. Other remedies include medications that help increase salivary flow such as Pilocarpine (Salagen) and Cevimeline (Evoxac). These medications are to be avoided by persons with asthma or glaucoma. Artificial saliva substitutes and oral lubricants containing glycerin will provide help during eating and speaking. They won't cure xerostomia, but will provide some relief.

Since people with dry mouth often develop fungal infections such as oral candidiasis, they may require topical antifungal treatment such as rinses and dissolving tablets. Dentures often harbor fungal infections, so they should be soaked daily in chlorhexidine or 1% bleach.

Can dry mouth be prevented?

There is really no way to prevent dry mouth, only the side effects of dry mouth. It is vital to detect, diagnose and treat xerostomia as early as possible to avoid the devastating effects of dry mouth on dental and overall health.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2013

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