My mouth is constantly dry. It’s uncomfortable and, according to my dentist, this problem increases my risk of dental problems. Any suggestions?
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is surprisingly common. Some diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Sjogren’s, reduce saliva production, as do many medications, including drugs for hypertension and depression.
Your dentist is right on target—saliva does much more than wet your whistle. It helps you taste, chew, swallow, and digest food and keeps bacterial growth in check, reducing risk of cavities and oral infections. It also helps reduce plaque that causes bad breath.
To relieve dry mouth, avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeinated beverages, and, if necessary, review your medications with your doctor. Practice scrupulous oral hygiene with regular brushing, flossing, and checkups.
You’ll also want to avoid the sugar-free, artificially sweetened gum and candy most doctors recommend. Instead, suck or chew xylitol-sweetened mints or gum. Xylitol, a natural low-calorie sweetener that inhibits bacterial growth, is even FDA approved for preventing tooth decay.
In fact, for optimal dental health, also consider using toothpaste, mouthwash, or sprays containing xylitol. Spry is one good brand. Another option is to put one quarter teaspoon of xylitol granules in your mouth several times a day. As they dissolve, swish them over your teeth and wait as long as is comfortable before swallowing.