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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chris Phillips

How To Manage Dry Mouth and Improve Your Oral Health

Rheumatic diseases come with a wide range of symptoms. While it is true that some symptoms are more severe and complex in nature, that does not mean you should ignore the less complicated symptoms. When it comes to treating autoimmune conditions, no symptom is too small or too insignificant to not address.

Dry mouth is one of those indicators of a rheumatic illness that might not feel like a big deal. It’s just a dry mouth, right? Wrong!

While it is true that a dry mouth might not interrupt your quality of life quite as much as other symptoms you experience as a result of your condition, having a dry mouth can lead to further oral health concerns and bring on additional issues.

The Importance of Correcting Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, medically referred to as xerostomia, is a common symptom associated with numerous rheumatic diseases.

Although the effects of a dry mouth may not seem as life-altering or even as life-threatening compared to other rheumatic illness complications, having a dry mouth can destroy your overall oral well-being.

When you take steps to decrease your dry mouth, you are taking a proactive approach toward bettering your oral health.

Dry mouth can lead to:

  • recurring mouth infections (such as oral thrush)

  • abscess formations

  • gingivitis (a gum disease)

  • periodontitis (a periodontal disease that damages the tissue supporting your teeth)

  • tooth sensitivity

  • tooth decay

  • tooth demineralization

  • tooth loss

  • dry/irritated nasal passages

  • sore throat

  • hoarse voice

  • mouth discomfort or a burning sensation within the mouth

  • dry, cracked lips

  • bad breath (known as halitosis)

  • difficulty speaking

  • trouble swallowing or eating

  • altered sense of taste

Dry mouth is a condition that can create chaos throughout your entire mouth, throat, and nasal passages.

8 Treatment Options for Dry Mouth

What can you do to manage dry mouth? How can you increase your saliva production? Let’s discuss eight treatment options you can explore when experiencing dry mouth.

#1 - Massage your salivary glands.

To encourage the flow of saliva, you can massage different salivary glands, such as the parotid glands, sublingual glands, or submandibular glands. Check out this patient education sheet from the Sjorgren’s Foundation to learn the proper massage techniques for these glands.

#2 - Massage your gums.

A properly performed gum massage promotes blood flow to your gum tissues, and that nutrient-rich and oxygen-filled blood can do wonders for your gum health and salivary production.

The gum stimulation needs to be gentle and controlled. It’s as simple as applying moderate pressure in a circular motion across your entire gum line using your fingers, a toothbrush, or even a water flosser or oral irrigator.

#3 - Stay hydrated.

People often correlate a dry mouth with being thirsty, but general thirst and dry mouth as a diagnosed medical condition are not the same issue.

But nonetheless, staying hydrated is always important for your health and drinking water can stimulate your salivary flow. Sucking on ice cubes is another way to increase your water intake.

#4 - Activate saliva production.

You can try to purposely activate and increase your saliva production by chewing gum or sucking on lozenges, sugar-free hard candy, or herbal lollipops.

#5 - Moisturize your mouth and nasal passages.

Run a cool-mist humidifier in your room at night. Focus on breathing through your nose to avoid mouth-breathing. Try out oral sprays and artificial saliva products to keep your mouth moist, and use nasal sprays to keep your nasal passages well moisturized.

In addition, you can incorporate oil pulling into your oral hygiene regime. If you are unfamiliar with this age-old medical practice, read more about how oil pulling works from the Sjogren’s Society of Canada.

#6 - Make lifestyle changes.

Stop drinking alcohol. Steer clear of tobacco use, including both cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Put an end to caffeine consumption as well.

Not only can alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine contribute to dry mouth, these substances can play a negative role in your overall rheumatic disease progression. When you stop these lifestyle choices, you can anticipate positive changes in your health, such as a decrease in the length and intensity of your autoimmune flares.

#7 - Visit your dentist.

Do not delay seeking the guidance of a dental professional. Dentists can offer invaluable knowledge about your dry mouth condition.

With their expertise, dentists might prescribe medication that can encourage saliva production. They could even suggest a specific toothpaste, particular fluoride treatment, or certain mouthwash to help correct the harm brought on by dry mouth.

Furthermore, a dentist may recommend extra cleanings and dental exams. Some patients see a dentist every three months instead of the normal six-month schedule when working to manage the effects of dry mouth.

#8 - Talk to your rheumatologist.

A rheumatologist is another healthcare professional that can help you with dry mouth.

Here at Paducah Rheumatology, we strive to look at the big picture. We want to find out the reason behind your dry mouth. If there is an underlying rheumatic disease that is contributing to your dry mouth, we want to work toward managing that autoimmune condition.

Our caring and committed team will take the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, address your specific symptoms, and create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.

Give us a call today at 270-408-6100 to make an appointment as a current patient or please have your physician send a referral if you wish to establish care as a new patient.

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