What is dry mouth?
Everyone experiences a dry mouth at one time or another. Its cause could be as simple as breathing through your mouth when you sleep. But longer term dry mouth (its technical name is xerostomia) is a condition where you don’t produce enough saliva (spit) and the effects can be surprisingly far-reaching.
Dry mouth can affect the way you eat and even talk. It can make it difficult to swallow. It can make your breath smell. There are issues for your teeth too. Saliva is the body’s natural defence against tooth decay, so if you stop producing saliva, then there’s less defence against the effects of tooth decay.
Do I have dry mouth?
If you experience any of the following, talk to your Bristol dentist about dry mouth:
• You feel the urge to drink lots of water.
• You wake up with a tongue that feels like leather or a mouth that feels full of cotton wool.
• You have difficulty swallowing, chewing or speaking.
• Your tongue burns or has become a darker red.
• You have dry lips and throat or mouth sores that won’t go away.
• You feel that you need to sip water to be able to swallow food.
• Your mouth feels dry after eating food.
What causes dry mouth?
Dry mouth can occur when your salivary glands stop working as normal. It can be a short-term condition caused by dehydration or stress and it is a frequent side effect of many medicines.
Dry mouth can also be a longer term side effect of lifestyle choices such as smoking, medical conditions like diabetes mellitus, depression and rheumatoid arthritis, and medical treatments such as radiotherapy.
Dry mouth could also be a symptom of:
• Sjögren’s syndrome
• High blood pressure
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Addison’s disease
• Alcoholic cirrhosis
What can I do to treat dry mouth?
There are lots of ways to treat dry mouth or alleviate its symptoms. These include special anti-fungal mouthwashes, gels and sprays. Talk to your Bristol dentist about ways to alleviate your dry mouth.
In addition, try the following tips and techniques:
• Always drink water before, during and after a meal.
• Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and sip water at room temperature. Avoid water that is very hot or extremely cold.
• Limit caffeinated drinks. You can still drink tea/coffee etc, but as caffeine can dry out the mouth, don’t overdo it.
• Drink sugarless drinks – avoid fizzy (carbonated) drinks altogether.
• Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Both dry out the mouth and increase your risk of gum disease and oral cancers.
• Choose an alcohol-free mouthwash.
• Chew gum or suck a boiled sweet (sugar-free, of course) to stimulate the salivary glands.
• Try using a humidifier at night to moisten the air in your bedroom.
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