When people hear the term "dry mouth," they often shrug it off as merely an uncomfortable situation - like being thirsty. However, dry mouth is a real oral condition: Sometimes referred to as xerostomia (the subjective sensation of dry mouth), it occurs when you produce less saliva. Saliva is essential for moistening and cleaning the mouth as well as digesting food. People with this condition may also be at a greater risk of oral infection, which saliva helps prevent by keeping fungus and bacteria in the mouth at bay.
People of all ages can have this condition, and there are many causes for dry mouth, such as:
About one-third of Americans suffer from dry mouth symptoms at some point during their lifetime, and older people are at a higher risk of developing dryness in the mouth for a multitude of reasons.
Why does age increase the risk?
One of the large causes of xerostomia (the subjective sensation of dry mouth) in older adults is the increased use of medications that come with aging. In fact, reduced salivation function is a side effect of some 500 different medications. Drugs used to provide relief from anxiety, depression, hypertension, urinary incontinence, Parkinson's disease, asthma and pain are among the many prescriptions that can lead to low salivation. Another big cause is antihistamines and other allergy medications. Additionally, as people get older, they often find their bodies are simply less capable of producing saliva and, combined with the use of these products, this can lead to an intolerable case of dry mouth.
While dry mouth symptoms are reversible for most people - and there are plenty of dry mouth treatments on the market - some must live with the condition their whole lives. And it's more than just an unpleasant situation. People with dry mouth have reported experiencing a continuous feeling of thirst, stickiness in the mouth, burning sensations on the tongue, sore throat and bad breath. They may even have a hard time swallowing, chewing and tasting food, and many seniors have trouble wearing dentures due to lack of moisture in the mouth. But perhaps the biggest reason to avoid dry mouth is that it greatly increases one's risk of developing gum disease - this periodontal condition is linked to heart disease, which is a growing concern for seniors and all American adults.
There are plenty of dry mouth remedies one can turn to, no matter the cause. Drinking plenty of water is key, and selecting a toothpaste that contains fluoride can help. You might also benefit from chewing on sugar-free gum, using a humidifier at night and, of course, seeing your dentist regularly. In some cases, your dentist or physician may prescribe a medication that boosts your body's ability to produce saliva.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your health care professional before beginning any new therapy.