Tips on managing a dry mouth

Dry Mouth

07 Jan Tips on managing a dry mouth

A dry mouth can be one of the most frustrating and challenging things to deal with. I see a lot of people who are very challenged with having a dry mouth so here are some simple tips!

In Rheumatology dry mouth – also known as ‘Xerostomia’ – often occurs with a syndrome called Sjogren’s disease where there is an immune destruction of the salivary glands, which produce the saliva which lubricates the mouth.

As a Rheumatologist, I usually see dry mouth associated with Sjogren’s disease, but dry mouth can also occur from many other factors such as cancer treatments, radiation therapy, Parkinson’s disease, and of course –  medications.

A dry mouth can make it hard for us to eat food, things can get stuck in our mouths and we can also find it hard to talk.

A dry mouth increases risk of tooth decay.

Once the mouth is dry it is a matter of finding ways to support the mouth to minimise its dryness so it is good to see if anything can be done to reverse the dry sensations.

How to manage a dry mouth:

Firstly:

  1. Look for drugs that could be contributing to dryness and check with your doctor. Common drugs to consider causing dry mouth are:
    • ACE inhibitors
    • Calcium channel blockers
    • Anti psychotic drugs
    • Some anti-depressants of the tricyclic and MAOI group
    • Anti-histamines
    • Proton pump inhibitors
    • Broncho-dilators
    • Pain medications such as opiates
    • Diuretics
    • Some antibiotics

Discuss your medications list with your doctor if you have a dry mouth

Next:

  1. Make sure you drink enough water in the day
    • Dehydration causes a dry mouth and if your mouth is already dry then it can make it worse!
  2. Address any anxiety and depression if it is there:
    • As this can create a worse sensation of dryness in the mouth
  3. Stop smoking if you are smoking!
    • It is bad oral hygiene and dries the mouth
  4. Reduce alcohol intake and avoid mouth treatments with alcohol as it can dry the mouth
  5. Address sinus issues and mouth breathing
    • Mouth breathing can make the mouth even drier
  6. Topical measures to regularly moisten the mouth are really important:
    • Recommended things include Biotene gel and/or spray, or a glycerine based mouth spray or mouth gel
    • The gel can be used at night time before going to bed for long acting assistance
    • The sprays can be used when you need them in the day to moisten your mouth
  7. Take good care of your teeth – saliva protects the teeth from decay so with less saliva the teeth are at risk of decay.
    • Biotene toothpaste can be a good support
    • Reduce sugar intake to reduce risk of decay
    • Get regular check ups with the dentist
  8. If all else fails and the mouth is still very dry a medication can be prescribed to increase saliva flow called pilocarpine.
    • This can only be prescribed by your doctor and is not a first line measure as there are side effects and its not always successful

If your mouth is very dry, its important to see your doctor to see if anything can be done medically to support you and get investigated for a potential autoimmune or reversible cause.

Your doctor will support you to personalise the best possible treatment for your dry mouth.

If you have any great tips that have worked for you to help you with your dry mouth, please write in and let us all know!

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