Approximately ninety-one percent of dentists say patients complaining about dry mouth are taking multiple medications, according to a nationwide member survey conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is caused by a decrease in salivary function. It affects approximately one in four Americans, placing more than 25 percent of people at risk for tooth decay. During the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) 57th Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Baltimore, July 8-12,
Cindy Kleiman, RDH, BS, will present a course, “Understanding the Oral-Systemic Connection: From Intensive Care to Long-term Care”, in which she presents new information about dry mouth.
“The number of xerostomia cases has increased greatly over time because people are taking more and more medications,” said Kleinman. “General dentists are seeing this trend in their offices, which is why they are trying to learn all they can about this condition. The more they know, the better they will be at diagnosing and treating patients.”
There are more than 400 prescription and non-prescription drugs associated with xerostomia, according to Raymond K. Martin, DDS, MAGD. “Anti-depressants, painkillers, diuretics, antihistamines, tranquilizers and anti-hypersensitives can all contribute to dry mouth,” said Dr. Martin. “People who take several of these medications are more susceptible.”
As indicated by the AGD survey, the most common symptoms reported by patients include constant thirst and difficulty eating, swallowing, or speaking. Foamy or stringy saliva, irritation of the tongue, burning of the tissues inside the mouth, painful ulcerations and dentin hypersensitivity (extreme sensitivity in one or more teeth) are also dry mouth symptoms. Over time, xerostomia sufferers may experience extensive tooth decay, tooth loss or gingivitis (gum disease) due to the lack of saliva.
“It's not always easy to diagnose xerostomia because of the subjective nature of the condition,” said Gigi Meinecke, DMD, FAGD. “That is why it's so important for patients to discuss symptoms with their dentist, even if they do not experience them on the day of the office visit.”
The AGD reports a number of actions dry mouth sufferers can take to alleviate the condition:
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