Columnists

Is Xerostomia Wiping Out Your Teeth?

Issue 37.13

A common cause of tooth loss, especially in the Baby Boomer generation and older, is dry mouth.  Xerostomia is the scientific word for dry mouth and you may have heard it first from your physician. 

Dry mouth has various causes but the most common is prescription medications.  Drugs for high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, and pain can all cause dry mouth, and many people are on multiple medications, which in some exacerbates the problem.

What happens when one’s mouth is dry?  Saliva serves several functions, among them aiding in digestion by lubricating food and adding salivary amylase, a digestive enzyme.  What is less known generally is that saliva also contains antibodies, which help fight against bacteria.  It also contains dissolved minerals which help maintain the strength of tooth enamel.  Saliva also lubricates teeth, keeping food and plaque from sticking to them.  So, when there isn’t enough saliva, oral health can take a dive very quickly.  We have personally seen people whose teeth were relatively good at one point and eighteen months later have multiple cavities, broken teeth, and serious infection as a result of dry mouth.  And wearing a denture with dry mouth isn’t fun, either.

If you have xerostomia, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your teeth.  In many cases, it can be controlled.  Chewing sugarless gum helps, as does sucking on sugarless candy.  Fluoride trays can also be made that are used a few minutes a day to strengthen the teeth against decay.  Several mouth rinses have been developed to help lubricate the oral cavity in the absence of saliva. Of course, these options only work if you still have teeth.

For those wearing dentures, keep in mind that saliva helps form the “suction” that keeps an upper denture in and when it is gone, the denture become unstable.  Often the best option is some sort of denture stabilization or denture replacement system involving dental implants.  There are several ways to do this and a thorough evaluation is necessary to determine what might be best for your situation.

If you have xerostomia and want to be seen to find out what can be done about it before it destroys your teeth, please contact Smiles Restored. 435-688-2772 for a thorough, no obligation evaluation.

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