Shortage of saliva? How do you cope?
August 13, 2016 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Mr. K's salivary glands were damaged during radiation for throat cancer. Result: dry mouth, especially at night. Looking for options for spraying/sipping.

The cancer treatment was highly successful, and the type of cancer has a reoccurrence rate of 2-3%, so mostly All Good. However, because he has either damaged or destroyed salivary glands, he has chronic dry mouth. He carries water and sips it all day. He eats foods that are moist, and avoids dry and scratchy. No problem, he's adjusting and hoping for the best.

But he wakes several times in the middle of the night with a very dry mouth; just water doesn't help. He tried several liquid aloe products, but couldn't stand the taste. Now he's using Spry, "moisturizing mouth spray." It's aloe with xylitol. The xylitol is sweet, which is fine, but it's described as "a sugar alcohol." I'm wondering if this is a quick fix that isn't helping in the long run. We'd welcome any ideas for sprays or liquids that sooth and promote healing.
posted by kestralwing to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Has he tried Xylimelts?
posted by gudrun at 2:42 PM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Biotene dry mouth wash? My mom used that after a similar side effect during cancer.
posted by catspajammies at 2:45 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As far as I can tell, Xylitol doesn't dry out tissue the way that other alcohols do. It has been scientifically shown to stimulate salivary glands and reduce the symptoms of dry mouth, as has biotene.
posted by muddgirl at 2:50 PM on August 13, 2016

Best answer: (oh, and I should have added that my husband, who had head radiation treatment with associated dry mouth, chews sugar free gum and sucks on xylitol hard candies, on the advice of the radiation nurse.)
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

biotene makes a dry mouth gel that you apply in great goopy globs to your gums at night before bed, after brushing. it is hard to get used to the feeling of a mouth full of snotlike glop tbh but it makes a difference for me during the moderate dry mouth i get in the first month after my cortisone shots.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:08 PM on August 13, 2016

Best answer: Xylitol is actually a simple sugar. Clinical studies have found it helps kill germs. If it doesn't bother his gut -- it promotes diarrhea in some people -- you probably do not need to worry too much about it.

I have tried multiple different aloe vera drinks. Most are pretty vile but a few are pretty good. I like these two brands:
They both come in a square green bottle. The bottles look a lot alike, but seem to be sold at different places.

Salt is a major component of mucus and the tissues of the mouth are classified as a subset of mucus membranes. My mouth problems benefited from switching to better quality salts, like sea salt or kosher salt, instead of table salt.
posted by Michele in California at 3:27 PM on August 13, 2016

My dry mouth at night and in the mornings was due to sleep apnea, and sleeping with my mouth open. A CPAP machine fixed all that, with the added bonus of being able to control the humidity in my mask. I turn it up when it's really dry, and turn it down when the house is more humid. No more dry scratchy sore throats in the morning.

Not the exact answer you're looking for, I imagine. But maybe a consult with a sleep doctor might be worthwhile?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:27 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have medication-induced dry mouth.

I am also allergic, or at least reactive, to something in tap water and a lot of bottled water. So I use Gatorade, and that does a lot better at night for me than water did. I also wake up several times a night with horrible dry mouth.

Also, you probably know this, but you're far more susceptible to cavities with dry mouth, so be extra careful and really stay on schedule with cleanings.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:39 PM on August 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pilocarpine - is the medication made for this; get an Rx from doctor. The stuff above us not in any way going to tackle how bad this from radiation. It's a different thing than what others think dry mouth is. Doctor should have suggested it.

posted by crankyrogalsky at 4:24 PM on August 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I also have dry mouth as a side effect of medication. Sugar free gum and biotene are the "right" answers, but most effective? Sour patch kids and warheads.

On preview, I'd ask about the prescription above.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:12 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I had severe dry mouth and thirst from medication and wasn't allowed to consume water before surgery, the hospital gave me these weird lollipop sponges that somehow made my mouth moist without introducing any substance I could swallow.

It resembled something like this.
posted by MonsieurBon at 7:57 PM on August 13, 2016

a teensy amount of kool-aid powder stimulates salivation
posted by txtwinkletoes at 9:40 PM on August 13, 2016

Best answer: my dad had this same exact cancer, and resulting salivary gland problem. he uses biotene toothpaste and occasionally the mouthwash and also spry gum. he also finds that soft chewy, greasy foods (orzo with an oily sauce for instance) are good foods that slide down easily. it's sort of a hard and awkward transition (for him?) into finding foods that are edible without choking, now that there is some mouth scarring and less saliva. sending good thoughts for patience and exploration.
posted by andreapandrea at 11:01 PM on August 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A tiny squeeze of "Mio"-type "liquid water enhancer" flavoured drops, undiluted, straight up into my mouth, make my cheeks pucker and my mouth water like crazy. I think they are pretty much all sugar-free, so presumably not cavity nightmares if used in the middle of the night (but to be fair, I haven't really looked at the ingredients closely).
posted by kmennie at 11:26 PM on August 13, 2016

Best answer: Biotene, toothpaste, mouthwash. Oragel comes in tubes he can carry he can apply descretely during the day, and before bed.

Due to the damage things that stimulate saliva are not going to be much help. Oralgel and biotene provide an alternative coating.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:37 AM on August 14, 2016

Best answer: I don't have direct experience with these, but perhaps check out Grether's pastilles (or other glycerin-based pastilles)? They're for sore throat and dry mouth, and apparently many Broadway folks swear by them. They apparently don't stimlulate saliva production so much as coat the mouth and throat as they melt. They may help during the day if they don't last all night.

This won't completely solve the nighttime problem on its own, but have you two tried running a humidifier near his side of the bed?
posted by Owlcat at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2016

Surgical masks help keep moisture in if they don't irritate too much.
posted by Gotanda at 11:03 AM on August 14, 2016

One of the primary ingredients of Biotene is Xylitol.
posted by muddgirl at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2016

Best answer: biotene makes a mouth spray that i found better than the various gums... using a toothpaste without SLS (sodium laureth sulfate) will also help.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:02 PM on August 14, 2016

Gudrun stole my answer. Xylimelts are excellent. I use one every night, don't wake up with dry mouth... and it's noticeable when I forget. On rare occasions I need a second one to get through the night. I use them on occasion during the day too. I use the non-mint flavored ones.
posted by lhauser at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! I've marked the ones Mr. K wants to try (one at a time). It's already helped him to know other people also need help, and there are lots of options out there.
posted by kestralwing at 6:29 PM on August 15, 2016

Another vote for the whole line of Biotene products, the mouthwash works for hours.
posted by nenequesadilla at 4:13 PM on August 21, 2016

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