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The Risks, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Chronic Dry Mouth

Posted 04/30/2020

To be sure, dry mouth can be annoying and inconvenient. What many people do not realize, however, is that it can also be dangerous if left untreated. Chronic dry mouth can lead to serious oral health complications, including gum disease and damage to otherwise healthy teeth. Fortunately, dry mouth treatment is readily available along with a full array of dental treatments designed to restore health and beauty to the mouth.

Why Is Dry Mouth Potentially Dangerous?

Saliva is one of the most important substances produced by the human body. It not only enables you to chew, swallow, and speak, but it also acts as a natural cleanser for the mouth. It helps to remove bacteria, acids, and food particles from the teeth and other delicate structures of the mouth. Without adequate amounts of saliva, you are far more susceptible to tooth decay and oral disease.

People with chronic dry mouth are particularly vulnerable to gingivitis, the initial and most treatable stage of periodontal disease, which, over time, can develop into the more damaging and difficult-to-treat periodontitis. In the meanwhile, without sufficient saliva to rid the teeth of bacteria and food particles, the enamel can erode and dental caries - cavities - can develop.

Causes and Symptoms of Dry Mouth

There are several possible causes of dry mouth, some of which are avoidable, some of which are not:

  • Infection and certain illnesses
  • Many medications, including allergy and asthma medications
  • Lack of fluids (dehydration)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Smoking
  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and certain sodas
  • Alcohol consumption

Of course, everyone has a dry mouth from time to time. You should seek treatment, however, if your dry mouth persists for several days and is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent thirst that is difficult to quench
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarse voice
  • Dry, red tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing

Dry mouth can also be a symptom in itself of a larger oral health problem, including oral cancer. This is why seeking treatment as soon as you are aware of your chronic dry mouth is so important.

Treating Dry Mouth

Before treating dry mouth at our general dentistry practice, Dr. Kelley must first examine your mouth and identify and diagnose any problems that may be contributing to your condition. Based on his diagnosis, he will configure a treatment plan specifically for you. This treatment plan may consist of topical fluoride applications, prescription-strength mouth rinses, and possibly Salagen® tablets or Xylitol gum.

He will likely also recommend at-home therapy and, if applicable, lifestyle changes to help improve your condition. Depending on your specific case, these recommendations may include:

  • Dramatically increasing your water intake
  • Avoiding all tobacco products
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Sucking on hard (sugar-free, preferably) candy
  • Exploring changes in your medication regimen
  • Seeking medical care for any underlying health issues that cannot be treated through general dental care

Learn More about Dry Mouth Treatment

To learn more about how we can help you conquer chronic dry mouth, request a consultation with Dr. Kelley.

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