If your mouth is dry every day, you’re not alone. Many people experience dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia. The root of the cause is the salivary glands. Producing saliva is their important function for preventing tooth decay and fungal infections. When the glands fail to work as they should due to a variety of causes, your healthy mouth is at risk for serious complications. Learn more about the common causes, what to watch for, and how even living in a high altitude state like Colorado can contribute to dry mouth. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, contact North Boulder Dental Group today.
The Important Role of Saliva
Our mouths contain many forms of bacteria, some good, some bad. Saliva plays an important role in washing away food particles and neutralizing acids produced by bad bacteria.
Six major salivary glands and hundreds of minor ones work hard to protect tooth enamel and to prevent gum disease. On average, the glands produce 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day. Most are produced in the late afternoon and very little is produced at night.
When your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist and protected, your mouth feels dry and gummy. Things may not taste the same and you may experience trouble eating. A review of your medical history and a closer look at your medications can lead to a better understanding of your dry mouth.
There are several possible causes of dry mouth—here are just a few examples:
Many medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, can contribute to dry mouth. Examples of common medications with this possible side effect are:
- High blood pressure, anxiety, and depression medications
- Decongestants, antihistamines, and pain relievers
There are hundreds of medications associated with dry mouth. Discussing your medications and sharing your concerns with your doctor is key to protecting the health of your mouth.
Chemotherapy drugs are powerful for fighting the disease, however, they can also change the nature of your salivary glands. The same is true with radiation treatments to the neck and throat. With both types of cancer therapy, the damage might return once treatment is completed or it may remain permanent
Dry mouth is common as we age due to a number of contributing factors, such as:
- Increased medications
- Changes in our body’s ability to process medications
- Life-long health issues and our past medical history
- Poor nutrition or an inadequate diet
Other Health Conditions
People with certain health conditions are more prone to developing a dry mouth. For example, Sjogren’s Syndrome, HIV/Aids, and diabetes can cause dry mouth. A stroke and Alzheimer’s disease can also contribute to dry mouth symptoms.
Additional contributors include nerve damage, tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drug use.
Dry Mouth Symptoms
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have chronic dry mouth:
- Your mouth has a sticky feeling
- Chewing, tasting, swallowing, and speaking become difficult
- You experience burning in your mouth
- Throat and/or tongue feel dry
- You have cracked lips
- Mouth sores appear and infections develop
- You experience chronic bad breath
If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms, you may want to get tested for dry mouth. Testing can include blood tests or a test that measures the amount of saliva your mouth produces.
How Colorado Altitude Affects Dry Mouth
One of the great benefits of living in Colorado is the scenic mountains and natural beauty. The state’s high elevation makes for very dry air. With Boulder sitting at an elevation of 5,345 feet above sea level, developing a dry mouth is a very real thing for many residents.
You don’t have to hike a mountain to experience dry mouth in the Boulder area. The lack of water vapor in the air is enough to affect people in different ways. Even the simplest activities and daily routines are often enough to lead to dry mouth over time.
Low air pressure at high elevations results in reduced oxygen levels, which in turn affects our bodies negatively. Our bodies depend upon oxygen to thrive. The dry air, lack of water vapor, and low air pressure can lead to dehydration. When this occurs, the body produces less moisture and it becomes more sensitive to beverages containing caffeine and alcohol.
Staying hydrated is also a great idea no matter where you live. For Boulder area residents, drinking plenty of water is helpful in keeping your mouth healthy. For those taking several medications, or who have had past cancer treatments, drinking water may not be enough to help your dry mouth symptoms.
How North Boulder Dental Group Can Help
Your oral health is important to your overall health. Dry mouth is a common condition that we often see here at the North Boulder Dental Group. The good news is there are treatment options available.
Many patients experience relief using moisturizing sprays, oral rinses, gels, or fluoride toothpaste. Drinking water helps but is not a cure-all for persistent dry mouth. Sucking on sugar-free hard candy is something many patients find helpful.
Dry mouth isn’t fun. It’s more than an occasional sense of thirst. It’s an on-going feeling of constant dryness that not only is uncomfortable but can also be causing your mouth harm.
North Boulder Dental Group has a professional and highly-experienced dental team ready to review your oral health. Dry mouth isn’t curable, however, it is manageable. We fully evaluate our dry mouth patients to ensure the best possible course of treatment.
If you are experiencing dry mouth symptoms and are searching for a dentist in the Boulder area, call (303) 447-1042 or contact us online. Let us help you feel better about your oral health by scheduling an appointment today.
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