Dry mouth? You’re not alone…

Xerostomia

A dry mouth, or ‘Xerostomia’ is a problem suffered by many and can have an impact on our chewing and swallowing ability. It can be a debilitating condition and cause all sorts of secondary problems. A dry mouth can develop as a result of general ageing, some medications, post-radiation effects for head and neck cancer, smoking, coffee and alcohol intake, thyroid issues, HIV, and diabetes.

How can a dry mouth affect your swallowing ability and quality of life? It can:

  • Make chewing more difficult and sometimes painful.
  • Make it harder to push food and pills from the mouth to the throat for swallowing
  • Cause pills to get stuck
  • Cause changes in taste
  • Contribute to increased tooth decay and gum disease
  • Contribute to bad breath, discolored teeth, and tongue stickiness
  • Contribute to increased yeast growth and development of oral thrush

What can you do about it?

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try taking coated pills, or request medications in liquid form if possible
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking
  • Reduce coffee
  • Avoid using alcohol-based mouthwash
  • Alternate liquids and solids during meals
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck sugar-free hard lollies
  • Try using a humidifier
  • Ask your local pharmacy if they have an artificial saliva substitute

 

As mentioned earlier, post-radiation effects from head and neck cancer can cause xerostomia. This month’s blog is dedicated to raising awareness around head and neck cancer and dysphagia.  

By Renee Taylor (SLT)

Read Renee's Blog: Head and Neck Cancer

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