Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth

Dry Mouth occurs as a result of an inadequate flow of saliva from the salivary glands into the mouth.

Saliva is a fluid that is secreted continuously into the mouth by the salivary glands. Just enough saliva is secreted to keep the mucous membrane (skin tissue lining the mouth) moist. When food enters the mouth, more saliva is secreted, which lubricates the food so it can easily move around the mouth, form into a ball, and be swallowed. Saliva is made up of 99.5% water and the remaining 0.5% is comprised of sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphates and other organic substances such as urea, uric acid, antimicrobial proteins and the digestive enzyme, amylase.

Amylase is important to the digestive process, as the chemical breakdown of food into smaller fragments for digestion begins with this digestive enzyme in the mouth. It is also necessary as a means of dissolving food so that it can be tasted. The enzyme, lysozyme, is also found in the saliva in small quantities and helps to destroy bacteria in the mouth and limit fungal and viral growth. This protects the Mucous membrane against infection and protects the teeth from decay. Saliva has a buffering effect on acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Without adequate saliva to bathe the teeth, rapid dental decay often occurs. Dry Mouth may also cause a plaque build-up, gum disease and bad breath.

AGEING
Recent studies indicate that ageing itself does not cause Dry Mouth. Ageing does not cause less saliva to be produced or problems to occur with the salivary glands. If an older person has a problem with Dry Mouth, it is considered to be a result of that person's medical condition or a possible side effect of medication.

POSSIBLE CAUSES
• Medical conditions such as Sjogren's syndrome.
• Medication. There are a number of medications, which may cause Dry Mouth, including painkillers and antibiotics.
• Stress.
• Breathing through the mouth.
• Dieting.
• Talking or singing for a long time.
• Depression.
• Diabetes.
• Radiation.
• HIV.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Patients with Dry Mouth usually have trouble swallowing dry foods and need to sip fluid while trying to swallow. The person may have a very Dry Mouth and lips when eating and have difficulty speaking at length. Other signs of Dry Mouth include a sudden increase in the number of dental cavities and/or gum disease in the person.

TREATMENT OPTIONS
As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition.
Your Doctor may suggest some medication or alter your current medication if it is causing severe Dry Mouth.

DIET HINTS
• It is important to maintain a healthy diet, even if Dry Mouth makes eating difficult.
• If Dry Mouth is a problem, is it advisable to eat small, regular meals of foods, which are moist and easy to digest (e.g. fruit, vegetables, fish, soft grains).
• Avoid sugary foods such as lollies, cakes, biscuits, soft and sports drinks. Try to include foods in the diet, which are low in sugar to help prevent tooth decay.
• Limit foods with high acid levels, including oranges and grapefruit.
• Foods such as carrots and celery are ideal snacks for a person with Dry Mouth, as these are wholesome and moist and massage the gums, which helps to keep them healthy.
• Limit your intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks).
• Use bland, non-spicy sauces in cooking.
• Sucking ice blocks and sugarless lollies may provide some relief from Dry Mouth. Healthy ice blocks can be made by freezing fruit juice and pulp.
• Try to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fresh water each day. Take frequent sips of water.

PHARMACIST'S ADVICE
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice.
1. Saliva substitutes from your Pharmacy may help to relieve the symptoms of Dry Mouth. These include carboxymethylcellulose gels, salivary peroxidase products and mouthwashes. Alcohol based mouthwashes are not recommended, as they may have a drying effect.
2. If you have any queries regarding the dosage and/or side effects of your medication, ask your Pharmacist for advice.
3. Patients who are prone to Dry Mouth should be encouraged to consult a dentist at least three times a year for the early treatment of cavities.
4. It is very important for every person to have a thorough dental hygiene routine. Brushing after meals helps to remove bacteria, which can cause decay. Flossing regularly helps maintain healthy teeth and gums and prevent infections.
5. Sugarless chewing gum, available from your Pharmacy, stimulates the flow of protective saliva to the teeth and gums.
6. Ask your Pharmacist about a water-spray bottle which can be used to lubricate the mouth while eating.
7. If the diet is inadequate, consider some nutritional supplements. Vitamin C, bioflavonoids and zinc play an important role in maintaining healthy gums, preventing infections and promoting the body's ability to heal wounds.
8. If you suffer from Dry Mouth, inform your Doctor or Pharmacist before taking antihistamines (both first generation (e.g. Avil, Polaramine, Phenergan) and second generation (e.g. Loratadine, Fexofenadine).