As the population in Suffolk County ages, we are seeing more and more older people in our practice. Many are taking medications that affect their oral health. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of many commonly prescribed drugs. A recent article in the New York Times asked “What is it about so many medications that causes dryness, especially in the mouth?” Drugs that can cause dry mouth include the benzodiazepines, antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some blood sugar reducing oral medications, respiratory agents, quinine, drugs that treat high blood pressure, especially calcium channel blockers and diuretics, drugs that treat excess urine flow, some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, glucosamine supplements, and the magnesium hydroxide in milk of magnesia. The effect may be amplified if a person is taking more than one of the above medications.
The drying mechanism of the involved drugs is not fully understood. Some drugs may suppress the action of receptors on nerve cells in various glands, including the salivary glands, that produce fluids. The drying effect can also involve other mucus membranes, like around the eyes and in the digestive system. Dryness in the mouth can lead to decay and periodontal disease. When I observe dry mouth, I discuss the importance of hydration, meticulous home care and regular dental visits.
To relieve your dry mouth: