Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth is a bothersome symptom that may or may not be associated with decreased saliva production. The incidence of dry mouth increases as we age, and may also be the result of medication use, a medical condition or a side effect of radiation therapy to the mouth or face. When saliva production decreases, having excellent oral hygiene is imperative since the risk of developing cavities and oral infections increases.
Measures aimed at relieving symptoms and discomfort associated with dry mouth:
- Stay hydrated by increasing your water intake;
- Avoid products that irritate the mouth (alcohol, coffee, tobacco);
- Moisten your mouth several times a day by sucking on ice, spraying water into the mouth with an atomizer and eating fresh fruits (watermelon);
- Cleanse or freshen up your mouth several times a day with mouthwash (alcohol-free). For a homemade mouthwash, you could for example simply mix 5 mL (1 tsp) of baking soda + 500 mL (2 cups) of water;
- Protect your lips with alcohol-free and fragrance-free lip balm;
- Opt for foods with a soft moist consistency. Adding sauces, cooking juices, vinaigrettes and sour cream will make food smoother;
- Avoid foods that are salty or spicy as they increase thirst;
- If necessary, take a sip (beverage or soup) with each bite to make it easier to chew and swallow;
- Keep the relative humidity in your home between 40-50%.
Measures aimed at minimizing the consequences of dry mouth on oral health when saliva production is reduced:
- Avoid eating sweet or sticky foods;
- Stimulate saliva production by sucking on hard candies or chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol;
- Avoid acidic beverages (cola, coffee, carbonated water, certain juices) since they affect tooth enamel. If you do drink these types of beverages, consume with moderation and have with a meal rather than in between meals;
- Use artificial saliva if necessary;
- Maintain excellent oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly.
If you suffer from dry mouth, do not hesitate to speak to your pharmacist or dentist.