Tag Archives: side effects

Dry Mouth: Beyond Thirst

Is your mouth constantly dry and uncomfortable? Do you drink glasses and glasses ofDrugs can can dry mouth water in an attempt to hydrate your tongue, cheeks, and gums—but nothing seems to cure your ailments? Well, first things first: maybe you’re not thirsty! While dehydration is most obvious cause of dry mouth, there are other factors that commonly contribute—and they’re probably incorporated into your daily routine.

In its simplest regard, dry mouth is a result of inadequate saliva production. Saliva is produced to assist people in speaking, eating, and swallowing. Without enough saliva, any normal activities involving your mouth will continue to dehydrate your mouth. Throughout a day, you habitually and often unknowingly utilize your mouth, and in turn constantly deplete your saliva at practically all times. When your body isn’t producing saliva, the dryness builds up more and more, causing further symptoms detrimental to your oral health.

Red, dry, raw, cracked lips are some symptoms of dry mouthThe most common symptoms associated with diagnosed dry mouth are frequent thirst, dry/sticky tongue, sores, dry lips, cracked corners of the mouth, dry or burning mouth and throat, rawness of the tongue, hoarse voice, and even bad breath.

So dry mouth and it’s correlated symptoms are caused by a reduction in saliva—but if drinking a lot of water isn’t helping you produce more saliva, what inhibits your body from this natural function?

Various pharmaceuticals are the largest cause. Recent studies have found that many drugs, over the counter or prescription, have mouth drying and saliva inhibiting side effects. The ADA and other health organizations are trying to bring awareness to consequences and risks of over 500 drugs and their contribution to dry mouth. Many people ingest dry-mouth-causing drugs on a daily basis (nearly half of Americans) because it’s a common side effect of pain relievers, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, asthma and allergy relief, and diuretics.

This poses problem because the people who take these drugs are usually especially dependent on their medications. Prescriptions and other meds greatly assist the daily functions of millions of Americans. But at the same time, they cause other problems that may have bigger consequences than users realize.

And other than discomfort, dry mouth can contribute to actual oral health problems. When your mouth is dry, it’s more susceptible to getting sores, which can become quickly infected without protection from saliva. Also, saliva helps prevent teeth decay by cleaning and coating your teeth, so dry mouth often contributes to decaying, chipping, and overall unhealthy teeth.

If you’re not on any sort of daily medication and dry mouth persists, there are a few other causes. Smoking and chewing tobacco have huge health risks, dry mouth among them. Also, neck or back injuries can cause nerve damage that inhibits the body from sending saliva production messages to the brain. Any medical condition that resulted in the surgical removal of salivary glands would also cause dry mouth.

If you have dry mouth, here are some dos and don’ts to help you cope:

DO: Maintain a daily oral health routine. Brush your teeth and tongue with toothpaste that has fluoride. And as always, remember to floss.

DON’T: Eat spicy, sugary, or dry foods. They’ll only add to the dryness.

DO: Chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free candies and lozenges. This can help stimulate saliva production.

DON’T: Smoke or drink excessive alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.

DO: Try out mouth guards with gel to produce artificial saliva.

Most of all, DO tell your doctor or dentist. They can help you figure out the cause of your dry mouth case, suggest treatment, and possibly change your daily prescription to something with less harmful or annoying side effects. At best, DON’T let your dry mouth persist.

Herbal Supplements: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

    The idea that relatively inexpensive, naturally derived products can be used to prevent disease or improve health and quality of life is intriguing to many people. Alternative medicine including Herbal or botanical supplements have been used for thousands of years and are still popular additions to many a modern, health-conscious person’s daily routine.  But don’t be misled… Your herbal remedy may be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Natural doesn’t mean harmless or effective, and most herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means it’s up to consumers to do their homework and seek the advice of their doctors … do you know what you are taking?

More often than not when it is time to update the health history at the dental office people omit mentioning the supplements and other over-the-counter products that they consume. However, it is important to realize that it doesn’t matter whether the active chemical substances contained in a product occur naturally in a plant or whether they are synthesized in a pharmaceutical laboratory; the effect may be the same.  As a matter of fact, many commonly prescribed medications include ingredients that derived from the very same plants and natural ingredients that are available for purchase over the counter as a supplement. Familiar examples include:

  • St. John’s Wort contains ingredients chemically similar to many commonly prescribed SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa.
  • Warfarin (Coumadin) is an anticoagulant or “blood thinner” that contains coumarin, an ingredient found naturally in many plants including sweet clover, licorice, parsley and chamomile.

All drugs (natural or pharmaceutical) that are ingested have what is known as a primary effect (the reason one takes the drug), and a secondary effect (side effect) which can sometimes be harmful. Furthermore, adverse interactions between herbal remedies and prescription medications are common, as are sometimes serious side effects, but we may choose to take these substances anyway when the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.  Vitamins and herbal supplements can cause a variety of effects including bad breath, cardiac and respiratory complications, excessive bleeding, negating or increasing the effects of antibiotics and other types of medications, and more. A few supplements have specific oral effects including these examples:

  • Gingko Biloba and several other botanical supplements can cause throat swelling, bleeding of the gums.
  • Kava Kava:  can cause muscle spasm of the lips and tongue, may increase the effects of anesthesia during surgery.
  • St. Johns Wort:  can cause dry mouth

Botanical supplements frequently do exactly what they are advertised to do, and can be very beneficial; but just as you would not take someone else’s prescription medication, it is important to thoroughly investigate any vitamin or herbal supplement with your health providers before deciding to include it in your health regimen.

Next time you are asked about your medical history at the medical or dental office, remember to list everything you take, including any herbal supplements. The information could be very important when deciding what other medications are prescribed for you, and it may even be a clue to resolving unexplained symptoms!