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Senior Dental Myth: Dry Mouth is Normal (It’s Not)

dry mouth seniorsAs an older adult, do you suffer from excessive dry mouth? Does an older adult that you care for complain of dry mouth frequently? Do you assume that this is just a normal part of the aging process and nothing to be concerned about?

Although it is a common myth that dry mouth is just par for the course as we age, this is not actually true. For the approximately 20 percent of older adults that experience excessive dry mouth, it can actually be a symptom of a medical condition or a side effect of certain medications, and it can lead to a host of dental issues.

Causes of Dry Mouth

In older adults, dry mouth is most commonly a side effect of certain medications, including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Pain pills
  • Decongestants
  • Incontinence medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Parkinson’s disease medications

Although medication side effects are most often the cause of dry mouth, certain medical conditions can also create dry mouth symptoms. Some of the most common disease that can contribute to dry mouth include:

  • Autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and systematic lupus erythematosus.
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Dry mouth can also be attributed to dehydration, which is why it is so important to keep an eye on any older adults you care for, as dehydration is a common issue for the elderly.

Issues Associated with Dry Mouth

We need sufficient saliva in our mouths to wash away food debris and reduce plaque, which is why severe tooth decay can occur if dry mouth is left untreated. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, 30 percent of all dental decay in older adults is caused by dry mouth.

Other health issues can also arise if dry mouth is left untreated. Common problems linked to dry mouth include:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hoarseness
  • Sore throat
  • Problems swallowing
  • Burning sensation in mouth
  • Dry nasal passages
  • Difficulty wearing dentures

Treating Dry Mouth

There are fortunately many things you can do to treat dry mouth and improve dental health, no matter your age. Your dentist or physician can prescribe medications to help increase saliva production, and regular dental checkups will help your dentist keep an eye out for any dental issues your dry mouth may be causing. There are also several things you can do at home to improve the saliva production in your mouth, including:

  • Chewing sugar free gum or sucking on sugar free mints

This will help fight dry mouth by stimulating saliva production. Look for products that contain xylitol, which is a sugar substitute that can actually help prevent cavities.

  • Brush and floss daily

Proper oral health practices will prevent the build up of plaque, which is the sticky layer of bacteria that promotes tooth decay and gum disease.

  • Drink plenty of water

Staying well hydrate will increase saliva production and help keep you healthy in general. Be sure to drink water after eating, and avoid foods that stick to your teeth, such as raisins, crackers, and pretzels.

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist

Discuss your dry mouth issues with your doctor or pharmacist and see if he or she recommends alternate medications that don’t cause dry mouth.

For older adults, treating dry mouth is especially important as it can lead to problems with chewing, swallowing, and dentures. If you or an older adult that you care for struggles with excessive dry mouth, contact your dentist or physician right away to discuss treatment options.

Dry Mouth Treatment in Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Dr. Wolnik received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in 2002. For over ten years, he and his staff have been committed to providing outstanding oral health care to each and every patient seen in the office, and strive to respectfully provide expert care in all aspects of oral health, including cleanings, fillings, accident reconstruction, and complex esthetic rehabilitation. Located in Parma Heights, Ohio, Kenneth J. Wolnik DDS, Inc. is known for exceptional service and community involvement.

6363 York Rd, Ste 202
Parma Heights, OH 44130

(440) 888-5055(440) 888-5055


Office Hours
Monday: 7:00am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Thursday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Friday: 7:30am – 1:00pm

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