Having a dry mouth for a long time doesn’t just leave a horrible taste, it can also have more serious health implications.
A persistently dry mouth means you don’t have enough saliva, which can cause you some trouble chewing, eating, swallowing and perhaps even talking, as well as possibly causing bad breath and cracked lips.
But a dry mouth can also raise your risk of tooth decay and oral infections, because your saliva has components that attack the bacteria that cause decay, neutralise the acids produced by tooth plaque, and help you rebuild tooth enamel.
Having a dry mouth is a common health issue for older people, with an estimated one in three people affected by it. But a new study has identified the drugs most likely to cause it, and there are some actions you can take to alleviate it.
New research published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, and reported by Science Daily, showed that drugs for urinary incontinence, depression, insomnia and diruetics used to treat high blood pressure were all linked to chronic dry mouth conditions.
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“In fact, medications used to treat urinary incontinence were nearly six times more likely to cause dry mouth than a placebo,” Science Daily reported. The researchers recommended healthcare providers regularly monitor and review medications, to identify when patients are particularly suffering from such side effects.
A permanent dry mouth can also less commonly be caused by an immune syndrome called Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes the immune system to attack the tear and saliva glands. Women more often get Sjogren’s than men, and it can take years to develop or come on quickly, with the severity ranging from mild to severe.
There’s no cure for Sjogren’s but it can be managed with medication.
If you suffer from a dry mouth, the non-profit site seniorsoralhealth.org recommends:
- Drinking extra water
- Using an over-the-counter saliva substitute from the pharmacy
- Chewing sugarless gum (especially gum containing xylitol because it helps protect teeth from decay)
- Brushing with flouride toothpaste and using a flouride mouthwash (mouthwashes with alcohol in them can cause further dryness).
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, because they all dry out your mouth.
Do you have a permanent dry mouth? How do you deal with it?