Dry mouth, at the very least, is an irritation to those who endure it. However, left untreated, the byproducts of dry mouth, also called xerostomia, can lead to more severe complications in the mouth.
Commonly affected by dry mouth are elderly patients, according to Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar of BellaVista Dental Care. This is because elderly patients are often taking medications that have side effects such as decreased salivary flow.
“This can be really detrimental to the oral environment,” says Bhatnagar. “When you have dry mouth, bacteria proliferates faster. Saliva is the natural buffer to that, but if saliva isn’t there to wash away bacteria in the mouth, it can lead to serious decay of the teeth, up to the roots.”
Another cause of dry mouth is radiation therapy, which treats cancers of the head or neck. Similarly, this causes salivary flow to stop producing saliva. Individuals who breathe through their mouths, those with buck teeth, or those with a larger top jaw than bottom can also be susceptible to dry mouth. In these instances, the tongue can also be impacted, becoming dry and cratered.
“It’s a challenge to treat,” says Bhatnagar. “With children, you try to correct the cause. In cases of skeletal development which affect the teeth and thus cause dry mouth, braces are one solution. In adults, there are different medications that can be taken to increase salivary flow.”
Lozenges designed to stimulate salivary flow are another option. Those dealing with dry mouth should also increase their water intake. A popular oral rinse known as Biotene helps keep the mouth lubricated, and a product called GC MI Paste is often recommended for those with dry mouth, since it contains calcium and phosphate to replenish minerals lost due to acidity from dry mouth.
“The key to treatment for dry mouth is, the sooner the better,” says Bhatnagar. “People should be very aware and visit their dentist as soon as they begin having any signs of dry mouth.”