Maintenance of dental hygiene is very essential for elderly people, as many simple factors affect their dental health. One of the common issues seen in the elderly is dry mouth. A dry mouth is a condition with decreased amount of saliva in the mouth.
People suffering from dry mouth often show certain symptoms like thirst, bad breath, difficulty in speaking and chapped lips. Saliva in such individuals seems to be thick and stingy. The tongue appears dry and is often irritating and scratchy. There is even a dry hoarseness in throat. Inability to chew, swallow or taste the food, dry nasal passages and painful sores in mouth and tongue are some other symptoms of dry mouth in the elderly.
Elderly people are more often associated with certain medications. However, many medications have side effects on their dental health. Therapeutic treatment for head and neck cancers can include radiation. Damage to the salivary glands with the radiation may reduce or stop the production of saliva. Even with age, the production of saliva decreases. Many older people suffer from depression due to various reasons. This is also one of the important factors causing lower rates of salivary flow and thus, dry mouth in them. Unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking alcohol also promote dry mouth.
Saliva protects the teeth and gums against different kinds of infections. With dry mouth, older people may lack protection from vulnerable mouth infections which can cause many dental diseases. Elderly people should be treated for dry mouth by appropriate medication as required under the guidance of an expert physician.