dry mouth cures

Getting Older? Watch Out for Signs of Dry Mouth

Getting older isn’t always fun. Ailments like arthritis and heart disease become more of a threat, and you have to spend more time focusing on your health. Another age-associated problem that often goes overlooked — to the detriment of patients — is dry mouth. Dry mouth increases your risk of cavities and gum disease, so treatment is important.

Many older adults no longer produce enough saliva, often as a result of certain medications or underlying diseases. Read on for a closer look at dry mouth, why it becomes increasingly common with age, and what you can do to protect yourself from its consequences.

Why Are Older Adults More Prone to Dry Mouth?

Approximately 30 percent of patients age 65 or older and 40 percent of patients over the age of 80 are affected by dry mouth. There are a few reasons dry mouth becomes more of a problem as you age:

  • Older adults are more likely to take medications that cause dry mouth, such as antihypertensives, diuretics, retinoids, benzodiazepines, and proton pump inhibitors.
  • Older adults are more likely to have undergone cancer treatment, and cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy, often cause dry mouth as an ongoing side effect.
  • Older adults are often affected by autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome, which often cause dry mouth.
  • Estrogen helps regulate the production of saliva, so in women, the risk of dry mouth increases after menopause.

If any of the above causes of dry mouth applies to you, then pay close attention to the moisture levels in your mouth. If you notice signs of dry mouth, such as a cottony feeling, difficulty eating without sipping water, and chronic bad breath, then see your dentist promptly to discuss these issues.

Why Is Dry Mouth So Dangerous?

Many older patients realize that their mouths are dry, but they ignore this symptom, figuring that it is nothing more than a minor annoyance. However, saliva plays an important role in protecting your teeth from decay. Saliva rinses oral bacteria and the acids they secrete off of your teeth and gums, helping to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Without enough saliva, these bacteria proliferate. Before long, you may find yourself with numerous cavities or sore, bleeding gums. Tooth loss and gum disease are very common in older adults and often, these conditions can be traced back to dry mouth that goes untreated. Identifying and managing dry mouth early on will help ensure you can keep your natural teeth as you age.

What Can You Do About Dry Mouth?

If your dentist and doctor are able to determine the cause of your dry mouth, such as a medication or an autoimmune disorder, then they can manage that cause to minimize your dry mouth symptoms. For example, your doctor may lower your dose of medication or recommend a more effective treatment for your autoimmune disorder.

In addition to these treatments, you can make a few lifestyle changes to manage your dry mouth at home:

  • Chew sugar-free gum throughout the day to help boost saliva production.
  • Keep a water bottle on hand, and sip water often throughout the day.
  • Install a humidifier to keep your indoor air moister.
  • Limit your use of tobacco products, caffeine, and alcohol, as all of these substances dry out your mouth.
  • If the dry mouth symptoms persist despite these habits, then your dentist may recommend using a special rinse to keep your mouth moist. You can use this rinse after you brush your teeth — just like you would regular mouthwash.

Dry mouth is more than an annoyance; it can lead to serious dental problems if ignored. If you suffer from dry mouth, then make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the impact and the treatment approaches that are right for you. At Greenville Center for Sedation Dentistry, we’re accepting patients in the Greenville area, so give us a call if you’re looking for a new dentist.

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