How To Manage Your Dry Mouth
By Jeffrey W. Cash, DDS
How To Manage Your Dry Mouth
Finding ways to manage your dry mouth and incorporate it into your daily routine can be a challenge. Regardless of how it came about, managing your dry mouth effectively can lead to a much better quality of life. It may also help reduce expenses from dental bills.
Because dry mouth is such a common problem, there are a number of solutions offered ranging from “over the counter” options to prescription medications. How you manage your dry mouth should be effective, reliable, and convenient. Lets take a look at some of them.
Why Should You Manage Your Dry Mouth
A chronically dry mouth has far reaching consequences. Sufferers of oral dryness report that it effects many things we normally take for granted. Some prominent chronic dry mouth issues include:
- Speaking: Talking with friends, family, co-workers and clients can be a chore when you cannot move your tongue and lips easily. It becomes difficult to pronounce words clearly, requires pauses to sip from a drink, and can prove embarrassing to many.
- Eating: Grabbing a “quick” bite to eat at any given time becomes foreign to sufferers. The dry, sticky tissue extends beyond the mouth and into the throat. This requires a slower eating pace and frequent drinking between bites simply to swallow your meal. The chance of food getting stuck and causing choking is a fearful reality for them.
- Ulcers and Abrasions: A dry mouth and throat makes it much easier to accidentally hurt yourself. Tissues that are supposed to be moist and hydrated all the time become less elastic and more prone to cuts and tears. Simple tasks like eating, brushing your teeth, and flossing can cut, scratch, or break the dry tissue easier. Not only is this uncomfortable, but a cut or scratch opens the body to bacteria which is a big concern for some.
- Poor Fitting Dental Appliances: Dentures rely on suction to help hold them in place. Without moist, elastic tissue to help create a seal around it, many people find they cannot wear dentures with confidence. Adding to this problem is that a poor fitting dental prosthesis will slide and move about causing abrasions.
- Dental Decay: As mentioned in an earlier blog, saliva helps to protect us in many ways. The number one concern a treating dentist has with a dry mouth patient is cavities. It is very common to find one or more small cavities during their checkup. Not only is this frustrating for patients who work hard to keep the mouth clean, but over time, this adds significant costs for them.
What Is Available to Help?
Over the Counter Management
Over the counter items for dry mouth include everything from palliative agents in the form of toothpastes, mouthwashes, sprays, lozenges, gels, and even medical devices. As with any medical product, make sure to read about each option before trying them.
Mouthwash: The use of mouthwashes for dryness is very popular due to their ease of use and availability. You can find them in most grocery stores and pharmacies. There are numerous brands that offer a variety of benefits simply by swishing and spitting out the solution. Unfortunately, their duration of action is relatively short.
Sprays: Small spray bottles of liquids to help with dry mouth can also be found with mouthwashes. These offer people a less cumbersome way to have relief with them when out and about. By spraying the recommended amount into the mouth as needed, they help reduce the sticky discomfort present orally. Like mouthwash, they often require repeat applications.
Longer Lasting Options
Lozenges: In an attempt to lengthen the period of relief, some companies have developed slow melting lozenges. These are held in the mouth or self-adhere to a person’s cheek and slowly dissolve over time. They offer the possibility of longer duration and come in a variety of flavors.
Gels: Along the idea of lozenges, gel coating agents are available and also offer a bit longer duration of relief. Often these come in a small tube that allows for it to be carried wherever you go. When needed, a person merely squeezes some on their tongue and uses their tongue to coat their mouth.
Medical Devices: Recent advancements in technology have led to dry mouth being treated with some medical devices. While each device operates in it’s own way, the mutual goal is to return moisture to the mouth. One device, The SaliPen, uses mild electrical stimulation to the glands and is claimed to increase saliva flow. Another is the Voutia System which operates by direct oral fluid replacement. Voutia uses a microfine tube to deliver water directly into a users mouth, has a low visible profile, and it’s on demand, continuous flow is adjustable to meet users needs. What is more, the Voutia System is FDA cleared for use even when sleeping.
The benefits of using a medical device to manage dry mouth include fewer visits to the store and lower long term costs on products. Also, as is the case with the Voutia System, sufferers get immediate, continuous, non-pharmacological relief that they can adjust themselves.
There are medications that a dentist or physician can use to help. One helps to increase the saliva by stimulating the person’s own body to make more and another works to prevent damage to salivary glands before radiation treatment. They are:
- Saligen (pilocarpine): Pilocarpine affects the nervous system and increases saliva secretion in the mouth. It is used to treat dry mouth caused by Sjogren’s syndrome, or by radiation to treat head and neck cancer.
- Ethyol (amifostine): Amifostine helps to prevent severe dry mouth caused by radiation treatment of the head and neck, which can affect the salivary gland.
While prescriptions are a convenient way to manage dry mouth, they do not always provide relief. Pilocarpine generally needs to be take three times a day for several weeks before it is noticeable and amifostine is given before radiation treatment begins. There are also side effects that people report. For instance, pilocarpine causes increased sweating, more frequent bathroom use, and can worsen some medical problems people have.
Manage Your Dry Mouth With Knowledge
Suffering with the difficulties oral dryness brings can reduce your quality of life. However, it doesn’t have to. Arm yourself with the most current information and talk to your healthcare team. The most important thing is to find what works best for YOUR body and YOUR lifestyle. Proper management over the long term not only will make you more comfortable, but help lower the chances of many costly issues.