Do you find that as you age, your body is becoming its own Sahara Desert? According to Dr. Ryne Johnson, prosthodontist at Newton Wellesley Dental partners, “It’s not your imagination that things are drying up — environment, hormonal changes, sun damage, certain medications all play a part”. Here’s what to expect and what to do about it:

Start with your dentist for an assessment because dry mouth can be caused by certain autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. (A dentist can see the signs of a systemic problem in the mouth, and refer you to an appropriate physician for further testing.) “There are also hundreds of medications that cause dry mouth. If you are on one that can’t be swapped for a different, less drying one, you have to take particular care of dental health”, says Kimberly Harms, DDS, American Dental Association Consumer Advisor spokesperson.

“Saliva is extremely critical to oral health – it lubricates the teeth, so bacteria can’t stick, and has a disinfectant properties,” says Dr. Harms. If you have chronic dry mouth, “make extra sure to brush two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss. You may even need a prescription fluoride toothpaste. And go for regular cleanings at your dentist.”

If that doesn’t do it, try over-the-counter saliva substitutes, drink water frequently, or chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production (look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance). If you sleep on your back, your mouth may dry out because of mouth breathing. Get a body pillow, position yourself with your head raised a little, and use a room vaporizer.

Smoking and chewing tobacco are very drying. There’s no way around it — the only way to solve the problem is to quit. For other interesting topics, visit:

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