If you have dry mouth, or xerostomia, then you know that it can affect your oral health in many ways. Having an occasional dry mouth is normal and may be due to fluctuations in your hormone levels or the nervous system. But having persistent dry mouth is a problem and cause for concern.
- Dry mouth can make you feel like there is a burning sensation in your mouth or throat
- You may develop sore lesions in your mouth
- It can lead to bad breath
- It can affect the health of your teeth and gums
Saliva is important because it washes off food particles and neutralizes acids in your mouth. Without enough saliva flow you are at a much higher risk for developing cavities and gum problems. Should you see your dentist or physician to address the problem? Or is it better to attempt some type of home remedy first before resorting to seeking professional help?
Pros of Treatment by a Dentist or Physician
1. The dentist or doctor can identify the source of your dry mouth. There are a few hundred medications that have dry mouth as one of their side-effects. You might want to consider switching to a different medication if possible and your physician can determine if this is an option or not. A few medial conditions cause dry mouth including diabetes, nerve damage, Sjögren’s syndrome, chemotherapy and radiation cancer therapy. If your salivary glands become damaged as a result of a medical issue you might end up suffering from a permanent dry mouth condition. You should consult your dentist or physician to see what solutions they can offer to best remedy or manage this problem.
Click here to see a full list of medication that cause xerostomia
2. Your dentist or doctor can prescribe you medications to help increase saliva flow if needed. Medications are usually reserved for treating the most severe dry mouth conditions, typically those associated with an underlying medical condition. Medications such as Salagen (pilocarpine) or Evoxac (cevimeline) can be prescribed to help stimulate the salivary glands and increase saliva flow. Your dentist or physician can evaluate you to see it is appropriate to resort to using mediations to increase the salivary flow.
3. Your dentist can offer you preventive treatments to help protect your teeth and gums in the absence of sufficient salivary flow. If your dentist can’t increase saliva flow to a satisfactory level, they will resort to preventive measures to help protect teeth and gums against cavities.
- At a minimum you will be advised to increase the frequency of your dental cleanings and start using fluoride toothpastes
- Additional prescription strength fluoride treatments may also be recommended. Fluoride may be supplied in the form of a prescription strength fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste such as Colgate Prevident 5000 to help better protect your vulnerable teeth during dry mouth periods.
- For the most serious cases your dentist may fabricate a custom fluoride tray to be worn overnight to directly supply prescription strength fluoride to your teeth
NEXT >> How to Decide
How to Treat Dry Mouth: Using Home Remedies
If you ever notice a lesion in your mouth that has you concerned whether it is oral cancer or not, you need to have it checked out by a dentist or physician immediately. Oral cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth such as the lips, tongue, palate or just about anywhere you can imagine. And while certain people may be at higher risks for developing oral cancer, it can happen to anyone. Your dentist is able to perform an oral cancer screening on you to determine what the lesion is. Or he or she may refer you to a specialist for more careful examination. Oral cancer screening involves a visual exam of your head and neck region as well as your oral cavity along with the examination of your X-rays to look for any suspicious lesions. If you have noticed anything out of the ordinary you should make an appointment and point the lesion out to your dentist for further examination.
Cases Which are More Likely to be Oral Cancer
1. Exercise more caution if you are a high risk patients.
- If you have had a history of cancer before then you should be on the look out for oral cancer
- Oral cancer is much more prevalent in smokers and heavy drinkers so be on the lookout for oral cancer if this applies to you
But keep in mind that oral cancer can also occur without any previous sign or risk factor. Screen yourself periodically and what at your dentist request an oral cancer screening to try and catch any suspicious lesions in earlier stages.
2. Persistent red or white lesion patch. Cancer lesions do not disappear on their own so anything that goes away is most likely not a cancerous lesion. You dentist or oral surgeon can test the suspicious lesion to see it it contains cancer cells or not and advise you as to what treatment will be required.
- Oral cancer lesions are typically white or red.
- They do not disappear on their own.
- They usually have irregular boarders and are nodular shaped.
- They tend to be ulcerative which means they can bleed.
- They typically don’t cause any pain in their earlier stages.
Click here to see example images of oral cancer lesions (warning: graphic)
3. Oral cancer will eventually lead up to pain and other systemic symptoms. Initially oral cancer will not cause any pain but as it progresses you may start noticing symptom.
- Pain or numbness in the mouth or tongue.
- You might notice your teeth are not touching like they used to before.
- Experiencing difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Difficulty moving and maneuvering your tongue or lips
- Other symptoms affect your entire body and include unexplained weight loss or fatigue
NEXT >> Could What I’m Seeing in My Mouth be Oral Cancer: Probably Not
Could What I’m Seeing in My Mouth be Oral Cancer: How to Decide
Having bad breath, or halitosis, is more common than you may think and affects about a quarter of the population at some point. We just don’t like to admit to it most of the times or we may just be unaware of our problem. Sometimes the bad breath is temporary due to a special diet, dehydration or maybe some onion or garlic we just had. Other times it is persistent and this will require some sort of treatment to find the source and resolve the problem. If you feel like you suffer from persistent bad breath (halitosis) then the first thing that crosses your mind is to go to your dentist for a good cleaning. Could a simple cleaning fix your bad breath problem? Or is it something other than bad teeth and gums that is responsible for your halitosis and maybe a visit to the physician might be the more appropriate route?
Pros of Going to the Dentist
1. Gum disease is the most common cause of bad breath in adults. Bad breath can be either from your teeth and gums or an underlying medical issue. The majority of cases come from problems with your teeth and gums so it is best to start off with a dental check-up to see if there is a dental problem. It makes more sense to eliminate any dental origin before you go and have a whole bunch of tests done to see if something else is causing the problem.
- If the area causing bad breath is localized to a specific tooth or region in your mouth it may very well be something as simple as fixing a bad tooth that is trapping food
- If the bad breath stems from your entire mouth then it is most likely is the result of plaque and tartar buildups. You probably have gathered these buildups on your teeth which are causing the bad breath and possibly gum disease as well. You may be in need of a deep cleaning from your dentist o fix the problem.
2. Removing plaque and tartar from your teeth can address bad breath as well as your gum disease. If your halitosis is due to plaque and tartar buildup you are probably suffering from gum disease and the bad breath is one of its side effects. Plaque and tartar produce sulfur compounds which causes this bad breath and foul taste in your mouth. But it can do more than just cause bad breath as it can lead to bone loss around your teeth and damage your gums and supporting jawbone. If this is the case you will probably be experiencing bleeding gums, teeth sensitivity and a foul taste in your mouth along with the bad breath. Bad breath can be one of the earliest warning signs that something may be going wrong with your teeth and gums. Going to the dentist can help manage the underlying gum disease and prevent more serious problems from happening.
3. Your dentist can review your oral hygiene routine, evaluate your gums and discuss how frequently you require a dental cleaning. You might have had your dental cleaning not too long ago but just months later feel that bad breath is starting to creep up on you again. This could mean that you are not doing a great job with your oral hygiene routine or that you may require more frequent dental cleanings, or possibly both. Talk to your dentist to see how they can help you.
- It could be that your brushing or flossing techniques are not up to par and you need to work on improving it
- Or it may be time that you increased the frequency of your routine. You may have to brush twice a day instead of once or start flossing every day instead of ever other day like you have been doing.
- Start brushing your tongue as well to help remove odor bacteria
- For those with more advanced stages of gum disease it might be time to start using some sort of interproximal cleaning device such as a rubber-tip, go-between brush or water-pik to better clean the larger gaps that brushing or flossing may not address
- It might just be time for you to increase the frequency of your dental cleanings, for instance you may require a dental cleaning every 3 to 4 months instead of every 6 months
When you have healthy gums two cleanings a year is usually more than enough to keep things under control. But if you have developed gum disease and lost your supporting gum and bone structure, it can become difficult to maintain satisfactory oral hygiene on your own for this long of a period. Receiving a dental cleaning every 3 to 4 months is completely normal for those with more advanced stages of gum disease. It can prevent the bad breath as well as slow the loss of your supporting gum and jawbone. Many patients have to rely on these additional dental cleanings in order to properly remove the plaque and tartar buildups from their teeth and better maintain their gums and teeth as they age.
NEXT >> Going to the Physician
Bad Breath Dilemma: How to Decide