Healthy Living

Dental clinic :Dry mouth can be bad for your health

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By Richard Kabanda

Posted  Monday, December 16  2013 at  02:00

Saliva is a digestive enzyme, a cleansing agent and a moisturiser that has germicidal properties. It protects the mouth from micro-organisms such as fungi and bacteria. So its importance cannot be over looked.

But there are cases when the saliva produced is not enough and this can lead to dry mouth. Here, we explore risk factors and how it can be addressed.

Medication: The use of certain over-the-counter or even prescription medicine can cause dry mouth. Decongestants and antihistamines used in treating allergies and colds, sedatives and muscle relaxants can also contribute to dry mouth. The use of diuretic drugs for the treatment of acne, hypertension, epilepsy, obesity and bronchodilators can also cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Diseases or infections: Dry mouth is common among people with diseases such as HIV. Medical treatments such as the use of chemotherapy for cancer results in reduced production of saliva, which may lead to dry mouth.
Nerve damage: When a nerve around the mouth which supplies saliva glands is damaged, it increases a person’s risk of developing dry mouth. Removal of salivary glands by surgery can also be a risk factor.

Dehydration due to diseases: Vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, loss of blood, burn injuries, or heavy sweating can cause the body to be dehydrated. This may in turn lead to dry mouth.

Common symptoms
•A dry feeling in the mouth.
•Constant thirst.
•Cracked lips or around the corners of the mouth.
•Dry throat.
•A burning mouth sensation on the tongue.
•Dry or red tongue.
•Difficulty in speaking or chewing food.
•Sore throat or dryness in nasal passage.
•Bad mouth odour
Besides causing problems listed above, a dry mouth puts a person at increased risk of mouth infections such as thrush, tooth decay, and gum diseases. Wearing dentures is also not easy for people who have a dry mouth.

If you developed dry mouth symptoms soon after you were put on medication, the drug is probably the cause of your condition.
You should visit your doctor who may change either the medicine or the dosage to solve the problem. A common remedy prescribed for a dry mouth is an oral rinse. Doctors may also recommend certain medications that work to increase saliva production.
Chewing candy or gum that is sugar free and drinking plenty of water can be helpful.

The writer is a dentist