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Oral Care

Saliva and Your Mouth

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Too Little Saliva continued...

Dry mouth is common in older adults, although the reasons are unclear. Diseases that affect the whole body (systemic disorders), poor nutrition, and the use of certain drugs are thought to play a key role.

Too little saliva and dry mouth can be caused by:

  • Certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Sjogren's syndrome, diabetes, and Parkinson's
  • Blockage in one or more tubes that drain saliva (salivary duct obstruction)
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Dehydration
  • "Fight or flight" stress response
  • Structural problem with a salivary duct
  • Smoking cigarettes

Hundreds of commonly used medicines are known to affect saliva flow and cause dry mouth, such as:

  • Antihistamines
  • Anxiety medicines
  • Appetite suppressants
  • Certain types of blood pressure drugs
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Most antidepressants
  • Certain pain medicines (analgesics)

Always ask your health-care provider about side effects you might have when taking a medication.

What Can I Do if I Have Too Little Saliva?

Try these tips to help keep your salivary glands healthy and your mouth moist and comfortable:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Suck on sugar-free candy

If dry mouth persists, your doctor or dentist may recommend rinsing your mouth with artificial saliva. Artificial saliva is a liquid or spray sold without a prescription. It can be used as often as needed.

Artificial saliva helps keep your mouth moist and comfortable. But it doesn't contain the proteins, minerals, and other substances found in real saliva that help with digestion.

Too Much Saliva

Too much saliva is usually not something to worry about unless it persists. It's normal to make more or less saliva depending on what you eat or drink. Your body usually takes care of excess saliva by swallowing more.

You can make too much saliva if: 

  • One or more salivary gland is overactive
  • You have problems swallowing

It is normal for your salivary glands to go into overdrive when you eat very spicy foods. Taste buds on your tongue play a big role in how much saliva you make. Pop something spicy or very sour in your mouth and your taste buds react by telling your body to make more saliva. Acidic foods tend to trigger a lot more saliva than sweet foods. If excess saliva bothers you, try changing your diet.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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