Dry mouth, the lowered production of saliva in the mouth, is a common side effect of medications. Yet many Americans mistake its prevalence as harmless, a move many dentists are urging to reconsider.
Dry mouth poses a real and often overlooked threat to dental health, as it can lead to severe tooth decay, infections and mouth sores. Because many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can causes interruptions to saliva production, and seniors are the largest demographic to take these meds, dental issues brought on by dry mouth often occur in the elderly.
As a matter of fact, more than 9 out of 10 adults aged 65 and older take at least one prescription medication daily, and almost half of Americans of all ages do the same. Dental experts point out that upwards of 500 medications may include dry mouth as a side effect, including many antihistamines, pain relievers, antidepressants, decongestants, diuretics, antihypertensive medications and those used to treat Parkinson's disease.
The role of saliva
Saliva serves as your mouth's natural cleanser. Not only does it help digest food and make it easier to chew and swallow, saliva fights tooth decay by rinsing the mouth of food debris and erosive bacteria. The lack of liquid allows odorous bacteria to accumulate, triggering bad breath, which serves as an annoyance to you and your loved ones.
Dealing with dry mouth
If you suffer from dry mouth, there are four key precautions to take that can help reduce the risk of cavities and infection.
1. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste following the "two-and-two" rule: twice a day for two minutes during each session.
2. Floss your teeth every day. Turn this into a habit, not a chore. Some dentists suggest that flossing before brushing is more likely to make it part of a routine, as after brushing we mistake the minty taste for cleanliness between teeth. However, these are spots only dental thread can reach.
3. Visit your dentist for a regular check-up and cleaning at least once every six months.
4. Drink at least 32 ounces, or 4 cups, of water per day.
Some other helpful tips include:
1. Rinsing your mouth out with water after meals. The longer food particles cling to teeth, the longer they have to eat away at the dental enamel, ultimately resulting in tooth decay. Water will help rinse away many of these stray food bits.
2. Chewing gum that contains xylitol.
3. Using alcohol-free mouthwash.
Before you add a pharmaceutical to your daily pill box, first should consider their potential oral health side effects. If dry mouth is a problem you have noticed, talk to your doctor or dentist today. They may opt for trying a new medication or adjusting the current dosage.