In recent years, prescribed and over-the-counter medications have emerged as the most common cause of dry mouth. Suspect medications include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, diuretics, antihypertensive medications and antidepressants. In fact, dry mouth is listed as a potential side effect of more than 400 medications. Be sure to read the literature that accompanies your medications and, if you think a medication is causing dry mouth, tell your dentist or physician. In some cases, a different medication may alleviate the problem.
What is dry mouth?Dry mouth is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva in the mouth when the salivary glands do not work properly. The salivary glands help keep your mouth moist, which helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. The medical name of the condition is xerostomia.
Although a common cause of dry mouth these days is medication, the condition may occur when a person experiences stress, or it may even be a sign of a serious health problem, such as AIDS, diabetes or Sjogren’s Syndrome (an autoimmune disease). Other possible causes include aging, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. People with Alzheimer’s disease or who suffer a stroke have been known to experience dry mouth.
How to relieve dry mouthYour dentist or physician may recommend using artificial saliva — available at local pharmacies — to keep oral tissues lubricated. But the solution may be as simple as increasing your water intake. Other tips on how to ease dry mouth include:
- Brush and floss twice a day
- Chew sugarless gum
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and smoking
- Avoid certain juices (orange, grapefruit and tomato)
- Avoid dry foods, such as toast or crackers
- Avoid overly salty foods
- Use alcohol-free oral rinses
- Visit your dentist regularly. Ask your dentist for advice specific to your situation.
Source: Academy of General Dentistry (www.agd.org)
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