Dry mouth from meds - risks & solutions
December 2, 2018 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking a new medicine that's giving me intense dry mouth as a side effect. I'm concerned about the increased risk of dental issues. Do products like Biotene gel and special mouthwashes for dry mouth help reduce the risk of cavities, or just help with the feeling of having a dry mouth?

I know that doubling down on brushing and flossing and cleanings etc can help, and I'm trying to drink more water and chew gum during the day, but my mouth is still really dry at night, and I'm worried about that. (I have A Thing about dental stuff and while I have gotten better about managing my feelings about that, I've found that it's best for me to manage it in part by working hard to avoid getting cavities. Also, I don't have the money for great dental care right now.)

I know about Xylimelts but I tried the CVS brand of them and they didn't seem to help much (in terms of stimulating saliva) and also were a bit of a pain to use.

I'm curious about whether the other options (gels, mouthwashes) are useful for the cavity issue or just useful for the uncomfortable feeling of having a dry mouth. Also curious if there are any options I'm missing beyond Xylimelts, gels, mouthwashes, gum, and careful dental hygiene.
posted by needs more cowbell to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also as a note for anyone else with this issue, I just discovered that some lozenges similar to Xylimelts (including the CVS brand ones I bought) are at least somewhat acidic, which is bad for teeth.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2018

curious if there are any options I'm missing

There are moisturizing mouth sprays, and some people use a room humidifier overnight.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:01 AM on December 2, 2018

Moisturizers do not reduce the risk of dental caries, they simply make your mouth feel less dry.

I prescribe high concentration fluoride toothpaste (5000 ppm), fluoride rinses (like prevident or act), more frequent cleanings (for patients with poor hygiene), topical fluoride at those cleanings (if needed) and swift intervention if caries arise. Cut down on carbs and sugars in your diet while you are on the meds.

Also, talk to your physician about your meds and explain the side effects, at times meds can be adjusted or replaced to reduce xerostomia (dry mouth).

Have any cavities you might currently have filled asap.

Hydrate and never ever ever use gum or lozenges with sugar in them, not even cough drops.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2018 [10 favorites]

drinking more water to combat dry mouth doesn't actually work bc it's washing away the saliva you do have, similar to how putting plain saline solution in your eyes doesn't help chronic dry eye. you want something lubricating like oasis mouth spray and spit stimulating like the xylimelts.

i mean definitely don't stop drinking as much water as you want to but it's not going to fix the medication-related dry mouth. for me i would wake up every 45 minutes all night long to sip water and then pee but with xylimelts i can sleep 6h straight through, longer if i stick a second pair in.

humidifiers have never done anything useful wrt dry mouth/nose for me other than make my house uncomfortably damp.

the biotene stuff (toothpaste, mouthwash, weird gel that made my mouth feel full of snot) doesn't stimulate saliva or "cure" dry mouth, it just doesn't have the usual ingredients (SLS) that would make extant dry mouth worse.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:23 PM on December 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

What OHenryPacey said.

I have medication-induced dry mouth and find that while Therabreath products are pricey (and sometimes difficult to find in the store) they work well for reducing the feeling of dry mouth.

That being said, I am a religious flosser, am anal about my toothbrushing routine, and have an excellent dentist who gives really fantastic feedback and tips on my brushing and flossing technique. Since I developed dry mouth about five years ago, my dentist has told me with every visit that my teeth look better than the time before. Dry mouth can be beat but it requires good habits. (I also have never had a cavity in my life and certainly not since developing dry mouth - *knocks on wood* - but YMMV, genetics can play a role as much as diet and hygiene do in one's exposure for cavities.)

Along with whatever toothpaste your dentist recommends, use soft (not medium) bristle tooth brushes, make sure you're spending at least 30 seconds on each "quadrant" of your mouth, and floss twice daily.

Flossing is required - not optional - if you want to avoid cavities. Dry mouth or not, but certainly moreso with dry mouth because the bacterial cultures in your mouth are different now that you have less saliva in your mouth to control the balance of bacteria. (To parrot what poffin boffin said above, on preview, this is why increasing your water intake doesn't "fix" dry mouth - because it has to do with your saliva production, not hydration.) Buy those floss picks if you have to, they're worth it if it gets you to floss.

Better yet, invest in a WaterPik. I like the cordless version so that I can use it in the shower. Also, it's way better for the environment (and your wallet, in the long run) than floss picks. Manual/string flossing gets rid of *most* stuff between your teeth but as my dental hygienist pointed out to me, there is still a kind of film/residue that even dedicated manual/string flossing can't eliminate. Which is why during a regular dental checkup, the hygienist still has to get in there and scrape - again, even if you're a devout flosser. But it's a lot less scraping. My dentist and dental hygienist were the ones who advised me to get a WaterPik if I wanted to make sure that I eradicated most of that "filmy" stuff on a daily basis. My 6 month dental check ups are a lot faster than they used to be because the hygienist doesn't have to do nearly as much work. And this is all *after* I developed dry mouth, so I tell you this as a data point that with the right habits you may possibly find your teeth in better condition than before. Dry mouth is surmountable.
posted by nightrecordings at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

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