Most people experience dry mouth occasionally, as a result of being nervous or upset, under stress, or dehydrated. If you experience dry mouth more regularly, it may be caused by a chronic condition or a side effect of medications you take.
No matter the cause, dry mouth can be a dangerous condition that can lead to ill effects.
“Dry mouth is a very common side effect from medications,” said Scott Reef, owner and pharmacist at Reef Family Pharmacy. “For example, the same antihistamine that dries our your nasal passages also dries up your saliva. Blood pressure medications and antidepressants can cause dry mouth, but so can at least 30 other types of medications.”
Reef notes the potential dangers of dry mouth.
“Saliva is an important part of keeping our mouths healthy,” he says. “It cleanses our teeth and fights germs in our mouth, helping to protect us against tooth decay and gum disease. It also helps us digest food, and even talk. Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands are not working properly, so when there’s not enough saliva, that causes problems in eating, talking, and with your oral health.”
Causes Dry Mouth
Also known by its medical term, Xerostomia, dry mouth can be caused by numerous elements. It is a side effect of several prescription and over-the-counter medications. Dry mouth also could be a sign of a serious health problem, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, autoimmune syndrome, or the result of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Other causes of dry mouth include aging, pregnancy, dentures, nerve damage, poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, substance abuse, nutritional deficiencies, and occupational or environmental hazards.
Do You Have Dry Mouth?
Occasional dry mouth is normal, but if you experience symptoms more often, you could have dry mouth. Importantly, symptoms progress over time, and may not be noticed at the beginning stages.
Symptoms include a swollen tongue, cracked lips, hoarseness, a sore throat, loss of taste, and bad breath. Swallowing could be difficult, and you could even choke on your food. Prolonged dry mouth can contribute to oral infections, cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease.
What You Can Do
“If you’re experiencing dry mouth, and you don’t know why, check with your pharmacist,” said Reef. “We can help determine whether the medications you are taking are causing the problem, and we can suggest strategies for relief.”
The pharmacy carries products to help alleviate dry mouth, and come in several forms, including rinses, lozenges, sprays, and gels. One, in particular, is new to the pharmacy.
"I was recently introduced to the MedActive® line, and I sampled their oral rinse, which I personally liked,” said Reef. “I put the sample pack on the shelves, and within a day-and-a-half, I had sold out. Since then, I’ve gotten many repeat customers who have requested it.”
Oral Pharmaceuticals (www.medactive.com) specializes in over-the-counter oral care. Its website provides additional information about dry mouth and other oral conditions.
"Whether or not you choose this product or another, it’s important to keep your mouth moist,” Reef says, “to protect your oral health.”
He offers the following tips:
- Use toothpaste, mouthwashes, lozenges and other products that are formulated to relieve dry mouth.
- Sip water or snack on ice chips.
- Chew xylitol sugar-free gum, or suck on sugar-free candy.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and smoking.
- Avoid overly salty foods.
- Use a humidifier at night.
- Talk to your dentist about other steps you can take to protect your oral health.
Reef Family Pharmacy is located at 1307 Route 9, Court House, NJ 08210. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or a consultation, call (609) 465-0004. Visit the pharmacy on Facebook, or at www.reeffamilypharmacy.com.