drymouthDry mouth can be an annoying sensation. But it’s more than just that. Chronic dry mouth raises your risk of a whole host of oral health problems, including enamel erosion and caries (cavities), gum disease, oral infections and bad breath.

What causes the problem in the first place? Many popular pharmaceutical medications have dry mouth as a side effect. Tobacco use can also reduce salivary flow.

Sometimes, dry mouth is a symptom of illness – diabetes, for instance, or rheumatoid arthritis. Other times, it may be caused by habitual mouth breathing or simple dehydration.

Perhaps because of the astronomical increase in prescription drug use over recent years – almost half of Americans take at least one, with polypharmacy (taking 5 or more drugs) up sharply, according to the most recent CDC data – dry mouth has become much more common in recent years.

So, too, products for dealing with it.

Yet not all saliva substitutes are created equal, as a new paper in the Journal of Dentistry demonstrates. It turns out – thanks to citric acid or other ingredients – some of these products can be highly acidic. One product was found to be nearly as acidic as Coca Cola, while others were more in the range of fruit juices.

Rather than protecting teeth, such products may in fact contribute to dental erosion.

Most of the 15 products tested turned out to lean toward acid. Only a few were square in the neutral to alkaline zone – the ideal for teeth.

But these are largely chemical-based solutions. Fortunately, they’re not your only option for finding relief from dry mouth:

  1. Drink more water. Sip it through the day in addition to enjoying it with meals.
  2. Eat more foods that require a lot of chewing, thus stimulating saliva flow. Think crisp, crunchy vegetables – many of which contain a lot of water, as well!
  3. Occasionally chew some xylitol sweetened gum. Xylitol, as we mentioned before, may actually prevent against cavities. You just don’t want to make gum chewing a habit, due to the extra pressure it puts on the teeth and jaws.
  4. Get needled. Research published last year in the Annals of Oncology found that acupuncture is effective in relieving dry mouth.

Image by Katie Tegtmeyer, via Flickr

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