Dry mouth affects men and women of all ages. It is more common in women and the elderly. Over 1800 drugs in more than 80 drug classes have the ability to make your mouth feel dry. A number of systemic diseases also contribute to dry mouth: Sjogren’s Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, diabetes, AIDS, bone marrow transplants, dehydration. Therapeutic irradiation used for treating cancer may damage the salivary glands, these effects are sometimes reversible with medication. The natural process of aging causes our bodies to produce less saliva.
Why is saliva important?
- Prevents cavities
- Dissolves material for taste and enjoyment
- Lubricates and moistens food for swallowing
- Starts the process of digestion
- Maintains pH of upper GI which is very important for absorption of some medications
- Cleaning of the mouth and clearing of the esophagus
- Maintains oral mucosa and teeth
- Prevents infections in the mouth (i.e. yeast infection)
What can I do to fix it?
- Drink 8-10 8 oz. cups of water each day. Leave a bottle of water next to your bed and drink sips during the night if you wake up.
- Avoid caffeine
- Chew sugarfree gum, especially one with xylitol. Increases the production of saliva by 10 times the normal rate! In addition, research shows chewing sugarfree gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking can help reduce cavities by up to 40%.
- Use gels and sprays from Biotene
- Humidifier at night during sleep
- Lozenges of anhydrous crystalline maltose
- Eat acidic, bitter and sour food in moderation. Good because they stimulate salivary flow. Bad because the low pH increases cavities and mucosal soreness
- TENS therapy
- Talk to your MD about prescribing pilocarpine or cevimeline to stimulate your salivary glands