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Dry mouth

Saliva in the mouth is vital for the mouth’s proper functioning. Saliva helps to keep the mouth moist, break down food and aid swallowing while acting as a cleanser. It washes around your teeth and mouth, helping to keep your mouth clean and fighting tooth decay.

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition that affects saliva flow in the mouth, making your mouth feel dry.

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How do I know I have a dry mouth?

There are many tell-tale signs of dry mouth, but the most obvious is a dry mouth. Some people experience sticky and thick saliva, which makes swallowing or speaking difficult. Some people also notice a burning sensation in the mouth and sensitivity to some foods.

The mouth also becomes sore, with a high risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Sometimes, the mouth becomes shiny and red. Although these symptoms do not readily indicate dry mouth, consulting your doctor or dentist is important.

What causes dry mouth?

Dry mouth can occur from several different problems as you grow older. It is often a side effect of medication, especially depression, heart and blood pressure tablets. Your dental care provider, pharmacist or doctor can inform you if your medication is the cause of dry mouth. Dry mouth may also occur from medical treatments such as surgery on the neck or head or radiotherapy.

Sometimes, dry mouth is a direct effect of a medical condition like lupus, blocked salivary glands, diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Do women have a higher risk of dry mouth?

Women going through menopause, often termed the change of life or the change, may experience dry mouth. Women who have undergone menopause and taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may also experience dry mouth.

If you are taking medications and experience symptoms of dry mouth, consult your doctor to determine if you should change the medication.

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Can I prevent dry mouth?

There is presently no way to prevent dry mouth, but some products can ease your symptoms.

What can cause dry mouth?

Saliva helps neutralise acids that attack the teeth and is essential to your dental health. Saliva also aids the breakdown of food while chewing, making swallowing easier. Some people also experience problems with swallowing when their saliva flow is insufficient.

Saliva helps to prevent tooth decay. It fights the bacteria that form dental plaque, leading to gum disease and tooth decay. Plaque is a thin, sticky film that forms on the teeth.

Insufficient saliva in the mouth may also affect food taste, making it difficult to eat drier foods. Sometimes, it affects your speech and increases the risk of bad breath.

What products can help with dry mouth?

Several products, such as sprays or gels, can help keep your mouth comfortable and moist. Some products also have extra ingredients that help prevent gum and tooth problems. Special products such as mouth rinses and toothpaste can aid with your daily oral hygiene.

How often is visiting the dentist necessary if I have a dry mouth?

You may have an increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay with dry mouth, and they can worsen faster than usual. This makes visiting your dental care professional regularly. Your dentist will inform you how often you need to visit the dentist.

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What can I do to relieve dry mouth symptoms?

Several options are available for relieving dry mouth symptoms. Some people notice that sipping water or sucking sugar-free sweets provide immediate, short-term relief. Ensure you use sugar-free oral products because a dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay.

Chewing sugar-free gum can help because it helps the mouth make more saliva. Your dental care provider may recommend products like paste, lozenges, rinses and gels.

Which toothpaste can I use?

You need fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350 – 1500 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride. Total care toothpaste is often suitable because it contains antibacterial agents and other ingredients to control plaque build-up.

Some oral products also contain sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), and people with dry mouth experience mouth irritation and worsen the condition.

What can my dental care provider do to help prevent problems resulting from dry mouth?

Your dentist may not be able to help with the cause of your dry mouth but can help you keep your mouth clean. They can also use fluoride to help delay the onset of tooth decay, provide advice about your diet and inform you how to care for your gums and teeth.

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Our dental professional at McKennell Dental Practice will provide adequate care if you have a dry mouth. You can call us on 020 7834 8802 to schedule an appointment with our dentist.