Xerostomia, or dry mouth (cotton mouth) from reduced saliva flow, is a condition quite common among older people. In some cases the condition is triggered by certain health problems or as a side effect of some medications.
Dry mouth can increase susceptibility to decay. Among its functions, saliva helps to remove food particles from the teeth, and it helps somewhat to neutralize the decay-causing effect of plaque. For denture wearers, reduced saliva flow can create discomfort.
If you are experiencing a continuing case of dry mouth, tell the dentist and your physician. Upon examination, the dentist can recommend several methods to provide the mouth with adequate moisture and thus treat dry mouth. These may include the use of artificial saliva or chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva flow.
Many times patients use lemon drops or some other type of candy (sugarless if diabetic) to help stimulate saliva and treat dry mouth, but this does not always work.
Pilocarpine, widely used in glaucoma drops, and on prescription only, has been used in the past as a treatment for dry mouth. Orally administered Pilocarpine in low 5mg doses, relieves dry mouth for up to three hours. Higher doses of Pilocarpine will stimulate salivary activity, but they also will increase blood pressure and heart rate.
The ironic part of this is that 25 percent of the people over the age of 60 suffer from dry mouth syndrome, usually as a side effect of medication taken for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure), allergy or anxiety.