Tooth decay is often mistakenly thought of as an ailment that only happens to children. In reality, everyone can experience it, even seniors. In fact, many seniors are at higher risk for tooth decay for one simple reason; a lack of saliva production. Saliva does not naturally begin to decrease as we get older, but if illness or medication is a factor in a senior’s life, chances are the saliva production is decreased. With less saliva, bacteria has a better chance at remaining on a senior’s teeth, making the presence of cavities much more prevalent.
Telltale Signs of a Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can occur for a variety of reasons including:
· A side effect of certain medications
· A side effect of various illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, stroke and Parkinson’s disease
· Damage to certain areas of the nervous system as a result of an injury or accident
· Poor diet or lifestyle choices
The most common symptoms of a dry mouth include the constant need to drink, bad breath, difficulty talking clearly and a dry feeling in the mouth or throat.
Dealing with a Dry Mouth
There are certain steps that we can take to try to fight the signs and symptoms of a dry mouth:
· Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of water every day can help to keep the mouth moist as well as help to fight the risk of oral health diseases.
· Chew gum – Sugarless gum can help to stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva. Make sure that the gum that is chosen is approved by the ADA.
· Eat a healthy diet – A diet that lacks certain nutrients or is heavily processed could also lead to a dry mouth. Try to eat a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and eliminates caffeine and alcohol to reduce the risk of a dry mouth.
· Talk to the doctor – Taking medication on a daily basis can cause a dry mouth. Discussing the issue with a doctor to see if a different dose or medication can be prescribed might be helpful.
Taking care of our dry mouth can help to eliminate oral health and even some physical health problems. Our saliva is needed for proper digestion of food as well as to keep food particles away from our teeth. When we suffer from chronic dry mouth, it is important to talk to the dentist to enhance our oral and physical health.