Dry mouth gives a person the constant feeling that there’s not enough saliva inside the mouth. If you are providing home care to an elderly adult that seems to have an uncomfortably dry mouth, there could be a problem that’s bigger than just being thirsty.
Someone who has a dry mouth almost all the time or even constantly could be in for serious health issues. This is not a normal course of aging. Dry mouth can be caused by medication, radiation therapy, nerve damage or chemotherapy. There are also diseases of the salivary glands, or something called Sjogren’s syndrome. It is an auto-immune disease sometimes linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Even diabetes can cause dry mouth. Because treatment depends on what the cause is, a doctor should be consulted.
Symptoms of dry mouth may include
- Trouble talking, swallowing or tasting
- Trouble chewing and eating
- Mouth feels dry and sticky
- Mouth may have a burning sensation
- Throat feels dry
- Lips are dry; cracked
- Sores in mouth
- Infection in mouth
- Tongue is dry and rough
To relieve the discomfort of a dry mouth, a person can sip water, avoid alcohol and caffeine-loaded drinks and stop smoking. Sometimes chewing sugarless gum or having some hard candies to suck on will bring some relief.
Steps to alleviate dry mouth
- 1. Identify the cause. You may need to consult a doctor. It could be medication or an illness like diabetes.
- 2. Make lifestyle changes. For example, stop smoking.
- 3. Increase saliva in the mouth. Drink water, suck on sugar free candy, and use a humidifier at night.
- 4. Take a prescription medication if recommended by the doctor. There are several FDA approved products.
- 5. Avoid drying foods and beverages. A few examples are mouthwashes, salty foods, caffeinated beverages
- 6. Brush teeth several times a day and remember to floss. Step up the oral hygiene; dry mouth can leave your teeth open to risk and your mouth open to other oral health issues.
Signs of excessive thirst or constant dry mouth are reasons for your elderly client to visit his or her doctor. It’s better to rule out more serious illnesses than to just brush off the dry mouth as a normal part of aging (it’s not an effect of age alone). Once the evaluation has been made, you can help your aging adult enjoy some relief by following the above steps.
If you or an aging loved one needs caregiver services in the Guilford, CT area remember there is “No Place Like Home-Care”. Call us at 203-483-7764 for more information.