Dry mouth among seniors can be symptomatic of a deeper and more serious health problem. Make sure to watch out for its symptoms and speak with your doctor.
By Dawn Flemming
Saliva is an important part of life. When we think of it, we usually think about its function in digesting foods. However, saliva plays a much larger role than that.
Saliva is important because it limits the growth of bacteria in the mouth which can cause tooth decay, gum disease and yes, very bad breath! Without enough saliva, dentures won't attach properly, lips get dry and mouth sores can come about.
If there is no saliva, eating, chewing and even swallowing can become painful.
The good news here is that having a dry mouth is not a normal part of aging so you don’t need to be afraid. What seems to be the case is that medications that the elderly take tend to bring about dry mouth.
These can include over-the-counter drugs like anti-histamines and decongestants. Other reasons such as alcohol or heart disease can also lead to dry mouth.
The more serious causes of dry mouth can be diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and some kinds of autoimmune diseases.
Dry mouth, however, is not something that should be discounted. About 4 million Americans suffer from it and 90% are female, so it is still something that should not be overlooked.
So what are the symptoms of dry mouth? According to Seniors Oral Health, they can include the following:
A sticky, dry feeling in the mouth and/or throat
Cracked lips or corners of the mouth
Burning or tingling feeling in the mouth, especially on the tongue
Sores in and around the mouth
Sore throat and hoarseness
What can be done about it? According to Colgate.com, the following is recommended:
Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.
If you have dry mouth and your symptoms persist, make sure to talk to your doctor immediately as it may underlie a potentially serious health problem.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.