Dry Mouth and Oral Health

 

dry mouth due to medicationResearchers at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently published that nearly 70% of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug daily and more than half of Americans take at least two prescriptions daily.  Among the laundry list of medication side effects one of the most common of both prescription and over-the-counter medications is xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth.

So, what’s the link between dry mouth and cavities?  Saliva not only makes it possible to talk and chew and swallow food, but it also naturally buffers the acids in our mouths.  Just as I mentioned last week, it all comes back to pH.  It’s our saliva that helps neutralize acids in the foods we eat and naturally boosts our oral pH after mealtimes.

When we don’t have saliva or have limited salivary flow, our risk for cavities increases greatly.  Most medications would fall under the category of “unmodifiable risk factors”.  This means you were put on the medication for a reason and you likely won’t be able to stop taking it due to increased risk for tooth decay.  While discontinuing a medication without first consulting with your physician is never recommended, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Avoid sucking on candy.  Although this can help stimulate salivary flow, sucking on sugary candy can further increase your risk for caries.
  2. Replace your regular candy and/or gum with xylitol lollies or gum to help stimulate salivary flow.
  3. Throughout the day sip on tap water or use a xylitol containing spray to help moisten your mouth and boost your oral pH.
  4. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste with an elevated pH, xylitol and glycerin to help prevent cavities and moisten your mouth.