Chronic Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

»»Chronic Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Elderly Woman Drinking WaterDry Mouth Can Be Harmful

Oral health includes a healthy flow of saliva.

Dry mouth (also called xerostomia) is usually just a short term symptom of dehydration. However, if reduced saliva flow becomes a chronic issue, it can lead to more serious dental problems. That’s because saliva coats teeth to provide a protective layer against bacteria, so reduced saliva leaves teeth more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay.

Anyone can experience reduced saliva, but it occurs more as we age and tends to affect women more often than men. Additionally, many prescription medications include dry mouth as a side effect, so be sure to recognize this as a possible cause.

Sjögren’s Syndrome

What many of my patients may not know is that there’s a serious disorder that includes reduced salivary function, and it’s called Sjögren’s Syndrome. This autoimmune disorder primarily strikes women over 40 and may grow progressively worse through mid-life. Sjögren’s syndrome is primarily characterized by dry mouth, but may also include dry eyes, skin dryness, or fatigue. Sufferers often experience a huge increase in cavities and oral ulcers (canker sores) as well.

Fortunately, xerostomia and Sjögren’s are both treatable, and we can monitor for early signs of cavities and decay during routine checkups.

Dry Mouth Tips

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Check side effects of medication.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.
  • Chew sugar-free gum.
  • Try rinses designed for dry mouth.
  • Nighttime snoring or mouth breathing? Try a humidifier.
  • Regular dental checkups to monitor oral health.

About the Author:

Born in Allentown Pennsylvania, into a family of musicians, Rob Pearce grew up studying violin, percussion, jazz arranging and composition. After two years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he transfer to the pre-dental program at the University of Miami and later moved to San Francisco where he earned his Doctorate in Dentistry (DDS) from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in 1990. For the past twenty eight years he has focused his efforts on mastering the art of high quality, long lasting “metal free dentistry,” a concept that was relatively new at the time but over the years has gained powerful momentum. In 2014 Dr. Pearce became a member of the “Visiting Faculty” of Spear Education, arguably the most prestigious dental continuing education program in the world. As a Spear Open Wide Foundation Ambassador, Dr. Pearce and his team travel to Guatemala to provide metal free dentistry to those who would otherwise receive no dental treatment at all. Dr. Pearce and Annette Rig were honored, and lucky enough to treat the very first patient at the Foundation’s first clinic in 2012. Since then, with the outpouring of support from our member dentists and American equipment manufacturers, we now have six clinics and have treated over 200,000 patients in need! The foundation’s goals include helping improve the education of Guatemala dentists. In 2015, as a member of the Education Development Committee, Dr. Pearce presented an all day lecture and workshop for the faculty and students at the Galvez School of Dentistry in Guatemala City.