Dry Mouth in the Elderly
Dry mouth syndrome, otherwise known as Xerostomia, is much more than simply feeling parched every now and again. As we age the composition of our saliva changes, and we produce less of it. There seems to be no real cause for this reduction in saliva produced, but it can become a serious problem, one that tends to gradually become worse the older we get. This is why we, at Carolina’s Dental Choice, encourage all our patients who experience dry mouth to come in for a quick check-up. Whether you are young or old, and experience mild or severe xerostomia, it is worth a visit to one of our professionals who can help find a way for you to feel better again.
An Increasing Elderly Population
Thanks to an ever-increasing mortality rate and decreasing fertility rate, America’s elderly population is growing. With a better quality of life comes a richer, longer one. However, there are always two sides to the coin. As our mortality rate continues to grow, we find the need to deal with certain pesky health complications that target the elderly. One in particular, being oral care. Sure, we have found ways to deal with rotting teeth and gum disease. Veneers, dentures, and bridges have come a long way. The practice of restorative dentistry is beyond impressive, just ask any Carolina’s Dental Choice patient and he or she will attest to the wonders of modern dentistry. We can and have done wonderful things for elderly people who find their oral health deteriorating, but one condition that seems to often get missed is dry mouth syndrome. This tends not to be dealt with because most people feel it is one that must be endured. What a lot of elderly people do not know is that dry mouth syndrome can lead to some pretty serious health problems if it is not dealt with. The truth is this is not a condition that needs to be suffered through. For the sake of one’s health and quality of life, dry mouth is something to be taken seriously.
What Xerostomia Can Lead To
Chronic dry mouth can cause difficulty in speech, kill the appetite, and can even lead to cavities and bad breath. In older patients who find their gums beginning to recede, this can be even more detrimental. Dry mouth can affect the exposed area of the teeth, causing them to rot. To add to this problem, taking medication regularly can induce dry mouth. Since the elderly generally take more medication than younger individuals, this directly targets them.
Constant sore throat, dry nasal passages, dental decay, difficulty swallowing and speaking, these all can be a direct results due to poorly produced saliva. Our saliva does so much more than simply lubricate the mouth. One of its most important jobs is to neutralize and rinse away bacteria and acids that are harmful to the teeth and gums. Sadly, as we grow older our mouth produces less saliva, thus leading to xerostomia. This is why Carolina’s Dental Choice takes dry mouth seriously. We know how uncomfortable it can be to have a constantly dry pallet. No one, especially the elderly, should have to suffer through this, which is why we have come up with a few helpful hints for those who are ready to get passed their bouts of dry mouth.
Home Remedies for Dry Mouth Syndrome
If you are tired of constantly having dry mouth there are some pretty successful home remedies you can try. Here are the ones we recommend:
- This seems a bit obvious, but it’s rather surprising how many people do not drink enough water. According to the Mayo Clinic, older men should drink at least three liters of water a day. Older women should have two to three liters. It’s also important to drink water throughout the day, rather than trying to get it all down in one sitting. By continually drinking water during the day you can help keep your mouth moist and fresh.
- Sugar-Free Candies. Sucking on sugar-free candy is a great way to temporarily stimulate the production of saliva. Any time your mouth feels dry, pop in a candy. Just be sure your candy is sugar-free, as sucking on sugar can cause tooth decay and continue to dry out the mouth.
- Sugar-Free Gum. Just as with candy, chewing gum does a wonderful job at stimulating saliva production. Though it is only a temporary fix, chewing gum can last longer than sucking on a piece of candy. Nowadays there are plenty of sugar-free options to choose from, but it’s best to make sure you choose gum with an ADA Seal of Acceptance.
- Stay Away From Caffeine. This might be the most difficult one to do, but it makes a huge difference. Caffeine naturally dries out the mouth, which will only make things much worse. Choose decaffeinated coffees and teas so you can still enjoy the taste of your favorites, and if you rely on these drinks to wake you up in the morning there are plenty of other options to get you up and moving. A full breakfast, fresh fruit, oats, almonds, these are great ways to wake up. Try eating an apple first thing in the morning. You will be amazed at how well it stimulates. Some even say an apple is more powerful than a cup of coffee!
- Keep a Humidifier Running. Having a little extra moisture in the air can do wonders to relieve dry mouth. For $50 to $100 you can purchase a nice little humidifier that will keep your room, or even your entire house, free of dry, stale air.
- Breathe Through Your Nose. As much as you can, try and breath only through your nose, as mouth breathing quickly dries the mouth out. Obviously there are times when you need to breathe through the mouth, like when you are running short of breathe, but when you are resting utilize the nose.
- Stay Away From Smoke. Smoke, especially from cigarettes or cigars, drastically dries out the mouth. Even just being around those who smoke can cause a reaction. Try your best to stay smoke free, and if you have friends or family members who smoke, kindly ask them to put it out.
- Use the Right Mouthwash. Rinsing the mouth a few times a day with alcohol-free mouthwash is another great way to keep the mouth moist. Just make sure it truly is alcohol-free! Alcohol is another one that tends to dry the mouth.
- Floss Daily. Those of us who suffer from dry mouth can end up with periodontal disease due to bits of food and decay stuck between teeth. These bits of food can become dangerous when there is not enough saliva in the mouth to break them down. You can counteract this problem by flossing at least once a day. Morning and night are the ideal times, but if you can only do one, try and floss right before bed. This way you are not sleeping, and possibly mouth breathing, with dirty teeth.
Our last bit of advice is possibly the most important: come see us for a teeth cleaning. Not only will we make sure your teeth are shiny and clean, we can also find additional ways to help your specific case of dry mouth. This way, if you suffer from extremely dry mouth we can advise on some more serious methods to make you happy again. Call us at 704-289-9104, or visit our website: https://adambrown.wpengine.com. See you soon!
By: Andrae Bergeron
CCP Web Design