Help!  My Mouth is So DRY!

By: April Lesh, RDH

Downtown Denver skyline, aerial in winter. Feb 2011

The Mile High city is known for its altitude and sunny skies!  That combination is great for outdoor enthusiasts but this climate also has its challenges.  Any Denverite will tell you that we are never without lip balm, and always have our water bottles in tow.  Below average relative humidity levels mean dry climate, dry skin, and for a lot of people, dry mouth.

Dry Desert

The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STO-mee-uh), and it is a common struggle for so many patients that I see here at Metropolitan Dental Care.  Common symptoms are, well, a very dry mouth.  Patients may wake frequently throughout the night, parched for water.  They will notice that they struggle with conversations, cardiovascular exercise, and even brushing their teeth, because their mouths feel like a desert.  Gums can swell and bleed due to the dehydration, resulting in a much higher incidence of periodontal disease.

Patients who suffer from seasonal allergies, or those with a head cold, may experience nasal congestion, and are unable to breath through their nose.  Mouth breathing evaporates any saliva very quickly, and also leads to a very dry mouth.

Additionally, there are some medications that may interfere with the normal saliva production in the body, resulting in chronic dry mouth.

Patients experiencing xerostomia from medications, nasal congestion from allergies, or a head cold, all while living in Colorado’s dry climate, find it difficult to cope.  Many daily activities can be affected, especially sleeping.  It’s the xerostomia perfect storm!

Because saliva is the buffer in the oral cavity that naturally washes away bacteria and works to balances pH levels, patients with dry mouth have higher rates of tooth decay (dental caries) and gum disease (periodontitis). So not only is xerostomia uncomfortable and disruptive, it can also be damaging to the teeth and gums.

Fortunately, there are some solutions to chronic dry mouth. In addition to staying hydrated with lots of drinking water, there are some things that can be done to solve this discomfort. Some of the products that we like to recommend to our patients at MDC for xerostomia are Biotene, Spry gum and lozenges, and Zylimelts.

Biotene is a line of dental products directed towards relieving the symptoms of dry mouth.

Spry (gum and lozenges) and Xylimelts (slow melting disks) are both products that contain xylitol.  Xylitol is a non-nutritive sweetener (a sugar alcohol) that actually encourages increased salivary production.  There are some exciting added benefits of xylitol as well! Xylitol works as an antibacterial of sorts, as it actually tricks bacteria into thinking that it is a food source, but because it is non-nutritive the bacteria starves and dies!  What a bonus!

In addition to the above products, patients who suffer from nasal congestion may also benefit from nasal saline sprays.  If mouth breathing persists, sleeping in a room with a humidifier or mister can also be very helpful.

Living in this beautiful city of sunshine and mountains does have some challenges. Dry mouth being one of them.  Overcome this burden with a few simple tips and helpful products, and you’ll be back to feeling refreshed in no time!