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.