Ask a Dietitian > Dry mouth? You’re not alone

Dry mouth? You’re not alone

March 19, 2018

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. 

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