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Dry Mouth: The 'Minor' Side Effect That Can Cause Major Problems
After years of medication and "being a naughty girl," bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy learned that some small side effects of medication can mean big doctor bills down the road.
I’ve been taking medications for about 14 years now and in that time I have experienced everything from fainting in the middle of the kitchen at work, to becoming psychotic and tachycardic thanks to psychiatric medication.
And really, when you compare dry mouth to those other side effects, it doesn’t even compare. In fact, it’s such a minor side effect that I haven’t even considered it important enough to mention to doctors in years.
But as I painfully found out a few years ago, dry mouth can cause major problems.
Dry mouth is technically called xerostomia. It is a condition mostly recognized, not surprisingly, by dentists. Unfortunately most of us wouldn’t think of reporting a psychiatric medication side effect to a dentist. (Although I’ve learned you should. It’s important all your doctors, including dentists, know about your medication history.)
And dry mouth can cause:
- difficulties in tasting, chewing, swallowing, and speaking
- an increase in your chance of developing dental decay and other infections in the mouth
Did you catch that? Tooth decay. Sometimes known as cavities.
After years of taking medication and being a naughty girl and not visiting a dentist (like many people) I discovered the likelihood of cavities after I found out I had eight of them. It cost thousands of dollars to deal with the problems that had developed in my mouth.
Don’t be like me. Avoid the needles and the fillings with these tips.
What Can Be Done About Dry Mouth?
You can, of course, always work with your doctor to adjust your medication based on this side effect. I wouldn’t generally recommend this if the medication is working well for you in other respects.
Not surprisingly, if you’re at higher risk for tooth decay it goes without saying that you should make visiting your dentist a high priority and see them every six months as recommended. But there are other things you can do at home as well that can help your dry mouth.
To handle dry mouth:
- sip water consistently throughout the day
- avoid caffeinated beverages as caffeine can dry out the mouth
- don’t smoke or drink—these make the problem worse
- suck on sugar-free (important) candies or chew sugar-free gum
- use fluoride mouthwashes (look for “cavity-fighting” mouthwash—normal mouthwash can actually make the problem worse)
- use dry mouth products—available in sprays and lozenges over the counter
- use high-fluoride toothpastes (available via prescription or in the drug store)
Keep in mind that dry mouth can be a symptom of something else so you should always tell your doctor about it.
For more information on dry mouth, click here.