Dry mouth sufferers have a lot to deal with!  A healthy saliva flow makes all of life better and is a sign of physical health and vitality.  As a clinical dentist, I’m seeing more and more cases of decreased salivary flow than ever before and the many problems that it causes for people.  Here is the short list of the challenges:

  • Increased rate of tooth decay
  • A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, tasting, and speaking
  • Mouth sores
  • Food impaction
  • Burning feeling on tongue
  • Increased rate of gum disease
  • Bad breath

Saliva does much more than just keep the mouth lubricated and hydrated.  A clear liquid made by several glands in the mouth, it contains important substances that initiate the digestion process.  The enzyme amylase, also known as ptyalin, starts the breakdown of starch into simpler sugars that will be further broken down in the small intestine.  Healthy saliva also contains lipase which starts the breakdown of fatty foods.  

Xerostomia” is the official word for insufficient saliva production, and you’ll see this as a side effect of many medications.  In my experience, medications for inflammatory diseases are a major cause of dry mouth.  Healthy saliva protects teeth from decay and helps control the bad bacteria population in the mouth.  Since dry mouth is such a nuisance, people often use hard candy as a remedy, which is like gasoline on the fire of dental problems.  

There are many different medications that have this unwelcome complication as a common side effect.  Here are seven of the biggies:

  1. Antihypertensive Drugs:  Most high blood pressure medications lead to oral dryness.
  2. Antihistamines:  While they stop your runny nose and watery eyes, they also seriously dry out your mouth.  Many people use them chronically and serious dental problems can result.  
  3. Antibiotics:  We know that they kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria but some can also dry up the salivary flow.
  4. Pain Medications:  Have you heard of “cotton mouth”?  Opiates stimulate absorption of electrolytes and fluid from the body and certain narcotic analgesics cause dry mouth.
  5. Urinary Incontinence Drugs:  Since these counter muscular spasms that cause the urgency to go, they also slow salivary secretion.
  6. Antipsychotic and Antidepressant Drugs:  These are used to treat a myriad of problems like bipolar disorder, autism, depression, Parkinson’s Disease, and others.
  7. Protein Pump Inhibitors:  Many are now sold without a prescription and are commonly taken for acid reflux.  Dry mouth is just the beginning of the problems from these drugs!

There’s hope!  Here are a few things that I suggest:

  • Drink more water.  Strive for drinking one-half of your body weight in ounces of pure water.  Avoid sweet drinks, including diet drinks.
  • Minimize caffeine.  Coffee, tea, and most sodas contain this dehydrating ingredient.  
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages and mouthwash.  Alcohol is dehydrating.  Mouthwashes with or without alcohol typically have chemicals that increase dryness in the long run.  One exception that I recommend to my patients is Biotene Mouthwash – specifically formulated for dry mouth.
  • Add a waterpik device to your oral care regimen.  This is a great adjunct to thorough brushing and flossing/using an interdental brush. There are lots of good brands that will help dislodge food from between your teeth.
  • Use a humidifier at night.  This will increase the moisture of your indoor air.  
  • Talk to your dentist and dental hygienist about your decreased salivary flow.  Get options from professionals who “know your mouth” and let them know your concern and desire to avoid dental decay.
  • Use Replenish Oral Probiotics.  I formulated them for this very reason!  They provide good bacteria that can actually displace the cavity-causing bugs.  They work!  I recommend letting one dissolve at bedtime or at a time when you are unable to drink water.  And, many of my patients call them their “bad breath pills” — a positive side effect!   

START SOMEWHERE today making positive lifestyle changes to potentially decrease your medications.  I’ve seen many people navigate their way to a healthier mouth just by needing less of the drugs that cause the dry mouth.  LIVE YOUNGER by looking for the cause of what ails you rather than just treating the symptoms.  You can do it.  I will help you.  

Decreased Salivary Flow

Decreased Salivary Flow