Xerostomia, Dry Mouth in Older Patients

Happy senior couple

Many older patients in some way suffer from a dry mouth.  A dry mouth makes it difficult to eat some foods.  A dry mouth can be frustrating.   A dry mouth can interfere with speaking as well.  Other symptoms include a sore throat, a burning sensation, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and a dry nose.
There are several reasons why older patients may have a dry mouth.  Some medical conditions may lead to a dry mouth.  Some medications may as a side effect create a dry mouth; these medications may include antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, urinary incontinence medications, antidepressants, Parkinson’s Disease medications, and many others.
A dry mouth can lead to a number of problems obviously.  As a dentist I can state that decay can become a huge problem for patients with a dry mouth.  Saliva has a way of cleansing the teeth.  Saliva neutralizes the acids that bacteria need to cause decay.  In order to counter-act the dryness, patients often will drink fluids other than water or they may chew gum or use mints or candy that contain sugar.  These complicate oral health by increasing the risk of decay.  The dryness in the mouth also makes the oral tissues more susceptible to infection as well.
To properly manage a dry mouth, we recommend sugar-free gum or mints containing Xylitol.  We also recommend the use of saliva substitute products like Biotene and oral rinses having the ADA seal.  Without proper management, the health condition of the mouth and the teeth can decline very quickly.  We invite all patients with xerostomia to visit with us if you are in need of a dentist.  We would value your presence in our practice.  We would enjoy caring for you.

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