Category: Mouth disorders

The Desert Within: Xerostomia Causes & Solutions

Xerostomia Dry Mouth
Dry Mouth?  Xerostomia is usually the symptom of an underlying problem.

Did you know?

  • In order to taste what we’re eating, the food molecules must first dissolve in our saliva
  • Unique proteins in saliva help wounds in the mouth heal faster than anywhere else on the body
  • Humans can potentially produce more than 150 gallons of saliva in a year – approximately enough to fill two bathtubs

But what if your salivary glands just don’t give a spit? Dry Mouth is a very real issue for many people and one that shouldn’t be ignored.


What Xerostomia Is

Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia), is abnormal dryness of the mucous membranes in the mouth caused by a reduction of the flow of saliva or a change in its composition. It is a potential symptom of several underlying disorders or can occur as a side effect of certain medications. Though it’s not a serious medical problem by itself, if left untreated dry mouth can contribute to poor nutrition, psychological discomfort, increased likelihood of mouth infections and tooth decay.


What Causes It

According to the American Dental Association, there are several main causes of dry mouth:


Medication is the most frequent cause of Xerostomia, with over 400 potential dry mouth-causing medicines available by prescription and over-the-counter. Some of the most common ones include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and drugs for hypertension.


Autoimmune conditions are the most common dry mouth culprit, with Sjörgen Disease being the most-often associated. Other conditions that contribute to dry mouth include Cystic Fibrosis, Hepatitis C, and Lymphoma, as well as uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension.

Cancer Therapy

Patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for head and neck cancers often experience Xerostomia symptoms, which typically resolve after the treatment ends. However, chronic dry mouth may occur when the toxicity of chemo drugs or radiation damages the salivary glands.


What You Can Do About It

The most pressing dental concern for patients is the effect of dry mouth on teeth. As we’ve discussed, saliva plays an important part in keeping your tooth enamel intact and healthy, so if left untreated, prolonged Xerostomia can lead to increased bacteria, plaque, and tooth decay.

However, the good news is that it is a very treatable condition. The top strategies are also easy to implement, including:

  • Adequate hydration to help keep the mouth moist
  • Use sugar-free gum, candy, or mints to stimulate saliva production
  • Leave a room vaporizer on at night to add moisture to the air
  • Use an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute

If a dry mouth is bothering you, ask us at your next appointment and we’ll recommend a solution to help you keep your mouth and teeth healthy.


Wisdom Teeth: Your funniest molars?

wisdom teeth removal Viral 2

Search the internet for “wisdom teeth aftermath video,” and you’ll have over 1.5 million options to choose from. Filming family members and friends recovering from dental anesthesia has become a huge social media trend. Several hilarious examples – including this one and this one shown above – have gone viral, generating hundreds of millions of views and national TV coverage.

What Are They?

Wisdom teeth – also called 3rd molars – are the only teeth that don’t develop until after we’re born. Most often they start to emerge in late adolescence, usually between ages 17-24. Humans have always had wisdom teeth, but have become a problem our modern diets are short in specific key nutrients that are critical to bone and jaw development. Because of that, the 3rd molars crowd the rest of the teeth, potentially causing serious oral and other health problems. There are approximately 10 million wisdom teeth removed each year, at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion.

How Much Ouch?

Despite producing some of the internet’s funniest moments, wisdom tooth extraction is a routine medical procedure. It is usually performed under full sedation, which carries some minor risks. However, the procedure is fairly straightforward, and very few instances of serious complications occur. After tooth removal, the resulting wounds are packed with gauze. Patients are restricted to a liquid diet during recovery, which lasts 3-4 days. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage short-term pain.

It is extremely important to adhere to the treatment and follow-up recommendations. Failing to do so can lead to excessive swelling, discomfort, infection or a painful condition known as dry socket. Fortunately, the remedy for dry socket is simply to remain fully hydrated post-surgery, rinse your mouth frequently, and avoid drinking from a straw during your recovery


wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth are the last permanent molars to develop.

But what about MY teeth?

In past decades, it was commonplace to have 3rd molars removed as a preventative measure against potential future problems. However, since 2000 public health policy has been shifting away from the routine removal of asymptomatic wisdom teeth, according to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. However, while adopting a wait-and-see approach can avoid a potentially unnecessary procedure, both the patient and the dentist must vigilant. Regular check-ups help to monitor for signs of potential problems through roughly age 30. This follow-through is important, since complications like pericoronitis, unchecked decay, or infected roots can create serious health issues.

The bottom line is to always maintain good communication with your dentist through regular checkups, exams and X-rays. Drs. Meyer and Johns will explain how your 3rd molars are developing, and what problems you may expect from your teeth.

Have more questions? Ask us at your next appointment.