What Can You And Your Dentist Do To Fight Dry Mouth?

Does your mouth often feel dry and cottony? Perhaps you've also been suffering from bad breath, frequent thirst, and cracks in the corners of your mouth. These are symptoms of dry mouth – also known as xerostomia – and they should not be ignored. A mouth that's frequently dry is like heaven to oral bacteria, and they'll soon cause you a number of problems including tooth decay and gum disease if you don't do something to moisten your mouth. Luckily, there are numerous ways to fight dry mouth. Here's what you (and your dentist) can do:

Consider changing medications.

A large number of medications can cause dry mouth. These include drugs to treat high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, mood disorders, allergies and digestive issues. If you're taking any medication regularly, it is worthwhile to check with your doctor and ask if it could be causing your dry mouth symptoms. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication that does not have this side effect or lower your dose.  Do not stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.

Sometimes, changing medications is not an option. But, it is still good to know that your medication is the likely cause of your dry mouth symptoms so you can set about managing them accordingly. Your dentist can then work with you to implement other methods to counteract the effects of the medication.

Sip water throughout the day.

This method is important for people who cannot stop taking a medication that causes dry mouth. It also works well for those whose dry mouth is caused by other factors, such as menopause, an autoimmune disorder, or nerve damage. Water keeps your mouth moist and rinses oral bacteria away, much like saliva would if you had more of it. Get into the habit of keeping a bottle of water with you at all times. Try taking a sip every 10 minutes or so. In the beginning, it might be handy to set an alert on your phone to go off every hour or so and remind you to keep drinking water.

Also keep a cup of water by your bed at night so that when you awake, you can take a few sips. This will rinse away some oral bacteria instead of just letting them fester all night.

Wear nasal strips at night.

Many people find that their dry mouth symptoms are worse at night and in the morning when they first wake up. This is likely because you sleep with your mouth open. Placing a nasal strip, which is just a sticky, tape-like strip, over the bridge of your nose can help. The nasal strip keeps your nasal passages open, so you're better able to breathe through your nose and less likely to breathe through your mouth all night.

Consider medications to boost saliva production.

Once you implement the methods above, you should check in with your dentist. He or she can examine your teeth and gums and let you know if the water sipping and nasal strip use are effectively managing your dry mouth. If these methods alone don't seem to be doing enough, your dentist may prescribe a medication to increase your saliva production.

The medication most frequently used to treat dry mouth is called pilocarpine. This drug works by stimulating the nerves that trigger the salivary glands to produce saliva. Pilocarpine needs to be taken with food 3 – 4 times per day and often yields results within a week or two.  Possible side effects include sweating, dizziness and blurred vision.  Because of this, most dentists only recommend pilocarpine and other saliva-stimulating medications when the other methods described above don't work.

Dry mouth is more than a minor annoyance. It can lead to gum disease and tooth decay if left untreated, so talk to a dentist at a clinic like Dental Associates PC soon if you're suffering from this condition.