For most, dry mouth is not a common thing but as you grow older it does become a common problem. Most likely caused by dehydration, or by simply sleeping with an open mouth.
Unfortunately, for others, dry mouth is a chronic problem that can have a distressing impact on day-to-day life. In addition to the physical side effects, it can also leave people feeling far less confident in social situations, to the point where eating and speaking in public becomes upsetting.
Current research estimates that around one in four adults suffer from the condition and this number rises to 40% in the over-55s. This makes dry mouth one of the most common oral health problems.
To help you understand more about dry mouth, here are some facts about the condition and our best advice for managing it.
Top Eight facts about dry mouth:
1. Dry mouth or ‘xerostomia’ is a condition that affects the flow of saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry.
2. Your mouth needs saliva to be able to work properly. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, and it helps to break down your food and helps you to swallow. It also acts as a cleanser, neutralizing plaque acids. It is constantly washing around your mouth and teeth, fighting tooth decay and helping to keep your teeth clean.
3. Having less saliva can also affect the taste of food and makes it harder to eat drier foods. Sometimes it can affect your speech and it makes people more likely to have bad breath.
4. Dry mouth is usually worse at night when the mouth produces less saliva than in the daytime.
5. Dry mouth can cause the mouth to become sore and there is a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
6. It can be caused as a result of old age, or, quite often it is a side effect of medication – especially heart, blood pressure, and depression tablets. Your doctor, pharmacist or dental team should be able to tell you whether your medication can cause problems.
7. Women are more likely to suffer from the chronic dry mouth than men (27 percent compared to 21 percent).
8. Studies have shown that those that suffer from the chronic dry mouth also have a higher risk of mental health illnesses and social anxiety.
Top Four tips:
1. Make sure you regularly visit your dentist – You have a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease with dry mouth, and these can get worse quicker than usual. So it is important to visit your dental team regularly. They will tell you how often you should visit.
2. It is important to use a fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350 to 1500ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Be aware that some products contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), and some people with dry mouth find this can irritate the mouth and make the condition worse.
3. There are many products designed to help your mouth stay moist and comfortable. These are usually gels or sprays. Some have extra ingredients that may help prevent tooth and gum problems. There are also special products to help with your day-to-day oral hygiene (for example toothpaste and mouth rinses).
4. Chewing sugar-free gum can help ease dry mouth as it encourages your mouth to make saliva. Your dental team might recommend products such as rinses, gels, pastes, and lozenges which you can get from the pharmacist.
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