| Thu, Aug 07, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Dry Mouth: It’s Not a Natural Part of Aging

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

dry mouthDry mouth. Cottonmouth. Xerostomia. No matter what you call it… it’s unpleasant. It can cause cracked lips, mouth sores, a rough tongue, and can make swallowing difficult.

Many older people have dry mouth and think it’s a natural part of aging. It’s not. Dry mouth is more common in older adults because they typically take more medications.

Certain medications, including some over-the-counter medications, can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva or change the consistency of saliva. Medicines for urinary incontinence, allergies, high blood pressure, and depression often cause dry mouth.

Individuals may experience dry mouth once in a while if they’re nervous or under stress. However, if you seem to have dry mouth most of the time, you should see a dentist or doctor. If your dry mouth is caused by your medications, your dentist or doctor may change the medication or adjust the dosage.

Dry mouth may also be a symptom of disease, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, Sjogren’s syndrome and hypothyroidism. HIV/AIDS, anxiety disorders and depression can also cause dry mouth. Certain cancer treatments can also affect the salivary glands, which may result in dry mouth.

Other Causes of Dry Mouth

  • Injury or surgery which results in nerve damage to the head and neck area
  • Tobacco
  • Dehydration
  • Physical activity in the heat
  • Snoring

The Importance of Saliva

Saliva protects teeth from decay, helps heal sores in your mouth, and prevents infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the mouth. Saliva also helps digest food and helps us chew and swallow.

If you have dry mouth, you need to do what you can to keep your mouth and teeth healthy.

Tips For a Healthy Mouth

  • Brush your teeth with an extra-soft toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime.
  • Floss your teeth gently every day.
  • Always use toothpaste with fluoride in it.
  • Visit your dentist for a check-up at least twice a year.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Use a humidifier at night to promote moisture in the air while you sleep.
  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods.
  • Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol in them.
  • Avoid caffeine such as coffee, tea and soda.

Watch this video for more information on dry mouth.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Dry Mouth: Resources and videos—NIH Senior Health

Take a Dry Mouth Quiz: NIH Senior Health

Medicare Made Clear: Get Medicare tips and resources—MedicareMadeClear.com


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