Dry Mouth: Symptoms and Treatment

Reduced saliva flow that results in a dry mouth is a common problem among older adults. It is caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Some symptoms you may experience if you have dry mouth are:

  • A constant sore throat
  • Burning sensation
  • Problems speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Dry nasal passages

Left untreated, dry mouth can damage your teeth. Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur. Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses. Semiannual dental visits are essential in order to ensure the health of your mouth. Schedule your semiannual dentist appointment today using your True Dental Discount plan and save big while sustaining your oral health.

The connection between periodontal disease and menopause

Menopause is a time of great change for women’s health and bodies. One area that is often overlooked, though, is the change women go through regarding their oral health at this time. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may discover that their mouths have become uncomfortable. Many experience dry mouth, gum tissue pain, and a changed sense of taste, particularly in salty, peppery or sour flavors.

A small number of women also experience menopausal gingivostomatitis, which involves gums that look dry/shiny, bleed easily and are abnormally colored (very pale to very dark). The academy notes that estrogen supplements and Hormone Replacement Therapy may help protect women’s teeth and get rid of these symptoms. It’s important to talk to your doctor and dentist about the changes you notice in your mouth during menopause so you can start returning to normal as quickly as possible.

Effects of cancer treatments on oral health

Most cancer patients who undergo radiation therapy are aware of the risks and side effects associated with the treatment, but not all are familiar with its effects on oral health. According to the American Dental Association, approximately one-third of Americans diagnosed with cancer suffer from painful oral complications after receiving radiation therapy. Radiation in the head and neck regions of the body can cause patients to develop dry mouth, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay, and lesions. They may also experience difficulty swallowing.

Although most of these effects are caused by radiation, chemotherapy may also result in damage to the oral cavity. To prevent these effects, the American Dental Association suggests that a patient’s oncologist and dentist work together before and during treatments. Patients undergoing cancer treatments should typically brush their teeth gently twice a day and may need to use a special saliva-replacement product to combat dry mouth. An increase in the frequency of fluoride treatments may also be recommended. The most important thing for patients to remember is to maintain constant and proactive communication with their dentists and oncologists.

Both health professionals care about their patients’ well-being and can benefit from coordinating their treatments. If you are anticipating cancer treatments in the near future, talk to your True Dental Discounts dental plan dentist for individualized advice and recommendations. He or she will perform a full oral examination and work with you to maintain your healthy smile.

What is thrush?

If you have ever had an extended stay at the hospital and been on antibiotics, you may have experienced “thrush,” also called oral candidiasis. Thrush is a fungal infection that appears on the tongue, mouth, or throat and is caused by an overgrowth of normal yeast in the mouth. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people who have a weak immune system, take antibiotics or have trouble producing saliva are all at increased risk of developing thrush. This infection is also common in the very young and elderly, people with dry mouth, and people who wear dentures.

In the case of dentures, experts recommend always cleaning and removing them before going to bed. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of thrush include creamy, white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, or roof of the mouth. Some people also experience cracking at the corners of their lips, a loss of taste, and a “cottony” feeling in their mouth.  Treatments range from taking antifungal mouthwash to lozenges, although medicines may also be prescribed if the infection spreads. If you suspect you or someone in your family may have thrush, contact your doctor or a dentist on your True Care Advantage discount dental plan for more information about its symptoms and causes. Left untreated, thrush can become a serious health issue, so be proactive and take care of it at the first sign of infection.