Tuesday, July 31, 2012

aging nastiness—"cottonmouth"

In the last few years I have found I often wake up during the night with a very dry mouth. I never connected this with aging, however, until one day my husband came home with a mouthwash sample from his doctor designed to help with this very thing in aging specimens like us. So dry mouth is another symptom of aging? Who knew?

A little sleuthing around on the internet led me to some interesting information about this rather common condition. Here are a few fast-facts (gleaned from the article "Dry Mouth and Its Effects on the Oral Health of Elderly People" from the Journal of the American Dental Association—JADA.

Causes of dry mouth (the medical name for the condition is xerostomia)

1. Drugs
The street drug methamphetamine is notorious for producing dry mouth. So is alcohol.

2. Aging
The aging of the saliva glands per se may not be the problem, since aging brings along with it a lot of other baggage, such as:
  • Chronic illnesses like diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Sjogren's Syndrome.
  • Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs given for conditions of aging. Some known to cause dry mouth are anti-depressants, diuretics, alpha and beta blockers and many more (consult the article above for a more complete list).
  • Nighttime dryness. I quote from the article above: "Nighttime mouth dryness is most common because salivary output reaches its lowest circadian levels during sleep and the problem may be exacerbated by mouth breathing."

3. Chemotherapy

4. Radiation therapy

Why is dry mouth a bad thing?

1. It's uncomfortable.
 
2. Saliva is necessary for mouth health and tooth preservation.

What can you do about it?

1. Visit the doctor to discover the cause behind your dry mouth symptoms,  especially if this is a major, continuing, quality-of-life problem.

2. If it's a problem during the day, chew sugarless gum, mints or candy to stimulate saliva production.

3. To guard against tooth decay, brush teeth at least twice a day, floss, and visit the dentist more often.

4. Use mouthwashes and rinses. I've been using the Biotene rinse my husband's doctor recommended (with indifferent results, I might add;  I'm not convinced it's making much difference).

5. My solution: park a bottle of water on my bedside table. Then when I wake at night with cottonmouth, pasties, drooth,  or doughmouth I just take a sip and look forward to morning when my mouth will feel normal again.  

Related:

Xerostomia (Wikipedia)

Dry Mouth (Dr. David Fox)

Violet Nesdoly / poems
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2 comments:

rebecca said...

I have dry mouth when I have to take antihistamines. My dentist suggested an OTC moisturizing mouthwash. Mouthwashes with alcohol are not good....

violet said...

Yes, I've experienced the same thing when I have a cold and taken antihistamines to clear my head. I suppose if you have to take those a lot, it would be an ongoing problem. Thanks for the tip about OTC moisturizing mouthwash. Because you're right about the alcohol-based ones--they apparently can make things worse

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