Seniors who suffer from dry mouth – why does it happen?

Many seniors suffer from dry mouth, whether it be occasional or consistent. But why do seniors experience dry mouth? What causes dry mouth?

Join us as we explore these common questions, but first, let’s start with the basics.

What is dry mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth. Your mouth tends to feel very dry, sometimes making it difficult to chew, talk or swallow.

Why do seniors suffer from dry mouth? What causes this condition?

Here are the most common reasons why people, especially seniors, experience dry mouth:

  • Side effect from literally hundreds of medications
  • Dehydration
  • Diseases (diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Nerve damage, specifically to the head or neck

As you can see there are several reasons why someone can have dry mouth.

It’s important to note that dry mouth doesn’t just come with age. Not every senior man or woman has dry mouth.

What’s so bad about dry mouth anyway?

Dry mouth can be uncomfortable for lots of people. If someone wears dentures, dry mouth can make them feel uncomfortable and the dentures might not even fit properly. Without enough saliva, dentures can cause sore spots due to rubbing the roof of the mouth or against the gums.

Additionally, if your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, your risk of developing tooth decay or fungal infections increases. Saliva plays an important part in keeping your mouth healthy since it keeps germs at bay.

How to fix or get rid of dry mouth

Seniors with dry mouth can practice effective ways to increase wetness in the mouth, such as:

  • Sipping on water throughout the day
  • Avoiding caffeinated drinks, like coffee, tea or soda (caffeine dries the mouth)
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol (they dry the mouth out)
  • Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy to increase saliva production
  • Using a humidifier while sleeping

Additionally, here are some recommendations for good oral care habits if you have dry mouth:

  • Use a mouth rinse that doesn’t contain alcohol
  • Brush teeth twice a day
  • Floss 1-2 times per day
  • Rinse mouth with water after taking syrupy medications or using an inhaler
  • Avoid sticky or sugary foods
  • When given the option, choose sugarless (cough drops, gum, vitamins, etc)

So what now? What if your loved one has dry mouth?

Schedule an appointment with the dentist or his/her physician. Discuss your loved one’s medications, along with any symptoms or concerns.

If it’s determined that medication is causing dry mouth, the doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative. The doctor may even be able to prescribe a medication that increases saliva production.

Schedule your appointment today!

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9584740

https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2018-08/DryMouth&OlderAdults-508.pdf