How Dentists Help Patients Dealing With Chronic Dry Mouth

Many middle-aged individuals and senior citizens are affected by a chronic dry mouth, which is a risk factor for tooth decay and gum infection. The condition is medically called xerostomia. Xerostomia is not an illness but rather a symptom of an underlying problem. This symptom ranges in severity from mild to severe.

It's important for people dealing with this disorder to have twice-yearly appointments at a dental clinic. Dentists can help their patients manage xerostomia. If any patients develop cavities because of chronic dry mouth, dentists treat this issue before the decay worsens and spreads to other teeth.


One of the more common reasons seniors and middle-aged individuals develop xerostomia is because of the medication they take. A large number of medicines cause this disorder. People aged 50 and older take more medications on average than younger folks do. Examples include certain medicines that regulate blood pressure, maintain a stable heart rhythm, reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and relieve depression.

Another cause is an autoimmune disorder known as Sjogren's syndrome, which has drying effects throughout the body. This autoimmune condition most frequently occurs in women over age 40. Sometimes a dentist is the first healthcare practitioner to suspect a person has Sjogren's syndrome. The dentist feels concerned about an older patient who has started developing cavities or has sore gum tissue due to lack of saliva. After ruling out the possibility of side effects from medication causing the dry mouth, the dentist considers other potential health issues.

Protective Effects of Saliva

One important effect of saliva is protecting the teeth. It contains antimicrobial agents that kill a certain amount of cavity-causing bacteria living in the mouth. The moisture also is protective against those bacteria because it acts as a barrier on the surface of teeth. In addition, saliva contains calcium and phosphorous, both of which strengthen tooth enamel.

Managing Xerostomia

Routinely sipping water can help. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free hard candy stimulates more saliva production. Dentists can also recommend an over-the-counter substitute, such as an oral rinse. They may prescribe a saliva production stimulant if this seems advisable. They generally encourage the use of fluoride toothpaste for all patients and may advise those with chronic dry mouth to use a fluoride mouthwash too. 

People dealing with chronic dry mouth because of medication requirements or an autoimmune disorder can rely on their dentist for assistance. The dentist can help them keep their teeth and gums healthy. Dentists also provide guidance on stimulating saliva production and on useful products for those with xerostomia.

To learn more visit a dental office near you.