It may seem like it’s just a minor hassle, but dry mouth – officially known as xerostomia – can have a major impact on a person’s oral health. The condition is appropriately referred to as dry mouth because it indicates a lack of saliva and is often accompanied by symptoms such as bad breath, a sore throat, and cracked lips. The causes of dry mouth range from normal aging to cancer treatments, but one of the major triggers is taking certain prescription medication. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic names drugs aimed at treating depression, anxiety, diarrhea, urinary incontinence and Parkinson’s disease as having a side effect of dry mouth. Because the number of medications taken typically rises with age, dry mouth is much more prevalent in older adults.
On its own, saliva plays a very important function in preserving a person’s oral health. It helps remove food and plaque from the teeth, preventing tooth decay; it limits infection-causing bacteria; and it neutralizes acids in the mouth. Not to mention, it makes food easier to swallow and taste, and it helps a person’s digestion. For these reasons, it’s very important to talk to your doctor or dentist if you notice persistent periods of dry mouth. If it is determined that a prescription is causing the condition, he or she can adjust your dosage or prescribe a similar drug that doesn’t have dry mouth as a side effect. You can also try drinking more water, breathing through your nose, or quitting any use of tobacco. Regardless of the treatment, it’s crucial that you work with your dentist to prevent future occurrences of dry mouth. The health of your teeth and mouth could depend on it.