Just as the name suggests, dry mouth is when an elderly person’s body doesn’t produce enough saliva to do its job. Saliva is an important part of the digestive system and contributes to oral health in many ways. Most people know that saliva is the first step in helping the body digest what it eats and drinks. Saliva also carries food particles away from the teeth and gums, and helps reduce the acids that contribute to tooth decay. Without saliva, the lips and mouth tissues become dry and tight. Sometimes, the lips will even crack because there isn’t enough moisture. Dry mouth can interfere with an elderly person’s ability to effectively eat, swallow and talk.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is often just a result of aging where the salivary glands don’t produce as much as they once did. However, most cases of dry mouth can be linked to medication. There are several hundred types of medicine that have dry mouth as a side effect. Some are over-the-counter medicines, such as those for allergies or the common cold. Others are long-term prescription medications such as those for mental health issues, overactive bladder, high blood pressure and more. Many seniors take a number of medications for their age-related conditions, resulting in a higher than average number of people with it.
Dry mouth can also be caused by illnesses or diseases like diabetes, HIV or Sjogren’s syndrome. Damage to the nerves in the head and neck can also trigger dry mouth. No matter what the cause of dry mouth in the elderly, it’s not something to overlook as a family caregiver or senior care aide.
Symptoms of Dry Mouth
If a family caregiver suspects their elderly love one may have dry mouth, there are several symptoms to help draw a conclusion. Seniors with dry mouth often complain of a tickle in their throat or a hoarse voice. They may also ask for water all the time and note that their tongue feels furry or thick. Other symptoms of dry mouth include cracks or sores in the corners of the mouth, chapped lips or bad breath. Family caregivers should be on the lookout for these symptoms in their aging loved ones and ask senior care aides if they have noticed anything similar during their time with the elderly person.
Treatment for Dry Mouth
Sometimes there’s no real treatment for dry mouth when medications are the cause, because the health risks to the elderly loved ones are worse than the dry mouth. However, sometimes doctors can adjust medications to trigger less powerful side effects. Quitting smoking is another way to help alleviate dry mouth. There are also some medicines that can actually trigger saliva production so those might be right for an aging loved one as well.
Family caregivers and senior care aides can help the elderly combat the symptoms of dry mouth by providing them with plenty of water to drink. They can also suck on hard candy or chew gum to promote saliva production. Other tips include using a humidifier in the house, especially when sleeping, and avoiding highly acidic drinks like orange juice.
With careful attention to their aging loved one, family caregivers can put an effective plan in place to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth as much as possible. This will help their elderly loved one be more comfortable and not struggle with the simple things like talking and eating.
If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Manteca, CA, please contact the caring staff at ApexCare®. Proudly Serving Sacramento, Yolo, Placer & El Dorado Counties. Call Today 916-924-9111.