What is Dry Mouth?

What is Dry Mouth?

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ANNOUNCER: Sixty-six-year-old Carla Prokovsky
has dry mouth– the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth. CARLA PROKOVSKY: My dry mouth is just always
there. Periodically, during the day, I will have some saliva, but for the most part, my
mouth is very dry at all times. ANNOUNCER: Many older adults have dry mouth,
but it is not a normal part of aging. If you have dry mouth, something else may be going
on. BRUCE BAUM, D.M.D., Ph.D.: An older individual
who’s experiencing dry mouth should recognize that it’s not a normal part of growing old
and they should not accept someone just patting them on the back and saying, “When you get
older, your mouth gets dry or your eyes get dry, etc.” ANNOUNCER: One symptom of dry mouth is difficulty
swallowing. Carla first noticed she had a problem in her early 50s. CARLA PROKOVSKY: If I were out and about sometimes
and you know how you just swallow to swallow saliva– I couldn’t swallow. I just felt like
my swallowing reflex was not working. And the first few times, that was very scary. ANNOUNCER: In addition to dryness in the mouth
and difficulty swallowing, dry mouth can also lead to an increase in tooth decay. BRUCE BAUM: A second consequence of having
too little saliva is a sudden upsurge in tooth decay. And instead of just getting a pat on
the shoulder and saying everything’s fine, you’ll have three or four fillings broken
down or new areas of decay. ANNOUNCER: The glands that make saliva are
called salivary glands. They keep the mouth moist and protect it from infection. People
get dry mouth when their salivary glands are not working properly. BRUCE BAUM: Saliva is critically important
to us because our mouths are a sort of gateway to the world as well as to our bodies. Nobody
pays attention to saliva until there isn’t enough. The reason is, saliva provides this
medium, this fluid, that protects and preserves every tissue from your lips to the bottom
of your esophagus. ANNOUNCER: There are several factors that
can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva or change saliva so it doesn’t work
like it should. The number one reason is medication. More than 400 medicines, including over-the-counter
medications, ranging from drugs for high blood pressure, urinary incontinence and allergies
can cause dry mouth for many people. Some diseases, like diabetes and Parkinson’s, can
also affect the salivary glands. But it is Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder,
that is the second most common cause of dry mouth. BRUCE BAUM: Sjogren’s syndrome affects somewhere
between one to two million people in the United States. Most commonly, they’re women around
menopause– so perimenopausal women from, let’s say, age 40 to 60. The principal problems
are problems of the salivary glands and the lachrymal glands, that make tears. So patients
can make too little saliva and/or too few tears. ANNOUNCER: Carla’s dry mouth was caused by
Sjogren’s syndrome. CARLA PROKOVSKY: The Sjogren’s is not just
a dry mouth kind of thing– it really, truly affects all of my moisture glands. And it
also– my nose is very dry and I do have very dry eyes. ANNOUNCER: Other causes of dry mouth include
cancer treatments for head and neck cancers and head and neck injuries that can cause
nerve damage. The problems caused by dry mouth– dryness, problems swallowing and tooth decay,
among others– can be treated. If you have a problem, see your doctor.

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