Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain

The Hidden Dangers of Dry Mouth


Man getting back from vacation and switching gears makes it hard to get in a groove, and it seems nothing is right until about the second week you are back 2 weeks and everything falls into place and the fires go out. Halloween and holiday season is gearing up, and then our wedding anniversary snuck up on us and another weekend was lost to fun and relaxing times. Not that it was a bad thing but that definitely took a chunk out of my writing time ūüėÄ

I had a major blow to my pride recently, for almost 33 years I kept my pearly whites pearly, and the only work I had done on them was braces. I found out this week I have my first cavity and 2 trying to start. The dentist’s first question was –

“Do you have a really dry mouth?”

Well, I never used to, but the pain medications I am taking now definitely makes me dehydrated, but I hydrate with lots of water all the time (was my answer). It turns out that dry mouth is a lurking side effect that we all take as minor, when it really turns out to be a major issue.

I had no idea! I knew good oral hygiene was vital and I attempted to keep up my routine as best as possible. I¬†brush and floss as regularly as I can, despite my work from home jim-jams lifestyle, and the days where I am crippled in pain I can’t do anything but throw up and tell myself “this one will pass right? the others have…” I try to not let painOral hygiene is important but if you are suffering from a chronic pain disorder a lot of the medications will dry your mouth out. So big deal, just a little dry mouth right? Totally wrong.¬†

Oh so very wrong!

Oh so very wrong!

I thought I was safe and doing the right things, until my recent dentist check up. The previous question was asked, and I got the bad news that my teeth had been compromised. The Dentist told me that I had fantastic teeth and it was just the dry mouth that had led to my predicament.

Dry mouth is, I suspect, a major reason I see so often on support boards and support groups that “teeth are destroyed” or “major dental issues” are happening to a lot of the people with chronic pain disorders since a lot of medications dry you out or have dry mouth as a side effect.

I have great teeth I always thought, of course I won’t have dental issues. I have never even had a cavity, and I take calcium, I won’t be like one of the people I see posting about losing teeth. Plus I hydrate! Well friends, just that is not enough! Dry mouth removes the natural defense of your mouth, saliva is part of the constant cleaning system that helps prevent bacteria from over running things and attacking your enamel. Swallowing and the action of the tongue during swallowing is all part of this cleaning system. So, if there is no saliva, there is basically no vinegar¬†on your windows, and you are left scrubbing away with only newspaper. If you have ever cleaned windows, or mirrors, without some sort of chemical solution, you find quickly it doesn’t work very well. And same goes for saliva missing from the mouth, this constant washing mechanism helps prevent bacterial or worse, fungal (like Thrush), outbreaks as it¬†cleans it¬†keeps everything in check.

High bacterial outbreaks mean they produce more acids, bacteria sort of “poos” acids, which breaks down the enamel in your teeth. Teeth are the hardest substance in the body, so much so that often Anthropologists and Archaeologists only have teeth to go on for extinct hominids and primates since that is all that lasted in the harsh environments to exist in the fossil record. They are incredibly strong, and their outer coating of enamel is what makes them so time proof. This enamel though, is weak to acids, and long term exposure makes the teeth tacky and this is pretty much the start of a cavity. This tacky state can lead to deep cavities, tooth breakage, painful and expensive dental procedures, and in the worst cases dentures.¬†For a simple explanation, here is a little video.

So if you have a chronic pain condition brushing isn’t enough to combat the dry mouth symptoms, and could even aggravate it further!

“So what do I do?”

Well right off my Dentist suggested a product that you can get at most drug and grocery stores called Biotene. I got a sample and it seems to work OK, it doesn’t completely fix my dry mouth but hey, it was free! The best price! It IS expensive to keep using, and the mouthwash I find feels like minty saliva from a bottle. Plus, it isn’t the most natural thing to do. So I thought I would find my own way to treat my dry mouth and did a lot of research.

So here are a few diet and habit changes you can make to help combat dry mouth:

  • Hydrate! –¬†You should be anyway but keep as much water in you as possible
  • Avoid alcohol – alcoholic drinks, mouthwashes, anything with peroxide in it, any of these can dry the mouth out. Avoid them when making or purchasing oral care products.
  • Avoid salty foods & spicy foods – salt drys things out, and so does most spicy food.
  • Avoid caffeine – same as salt, its a diuretic.
  • Wear lip balm/chap-stick – it helps soothe things and ease dry mouth irritation. I have a special lip balm I have made that helps a lot that I will post about later.
  • Avoid acidic things – pineapple juice, grapefruit, tomato, anything that stings if you have a cut in your mouth is what you want to avoid.
  • Chew sugar-free gum, suck on ice or hard candy/lozenges – these help to stimulate saliva flow, any sucking or chewing motion will stimulate the salivary glands.
  • Use a humidifier – they are great to have and help with migraines, get one or two!
  • Soft toothbrush! – Gentle, gentle, gentle with your mouth, treat it softly. Think about getting a waterpik/water flosser too!

Being the curious sort though, I did talk to a lot of women that I know that has gone through “the change” and asked them what they use to treat their dry mouths, and others that had problems with dry mouth due to medications. A lot of them told me “Oh I tried that Biotene stuff, and it never worked!” So of course the follow up was, “What do you use?”

Number one answer was! *drum roll*

Oil Pulling!

Now I must say I am not advocating oil pulling just on it’s own, you need to combine this with brushing your teeth with a non-irritating tooth powder¬†or paste. You can make home made (another post), or you can use pre-made like Biotene, Tom’s, or even the YL product line.¬†Which¬†I have heard¬†good things on all of these toothpastes for dry mouth treatment, though Tom’s seems to be the bottom of the fan scale, with biotene in the middle, youngliving products and oddly old fashioned tooth powder as the most preferred. The only requirement of the tooth cleaning material is that it is non-drying, non-irritating. Then, after you brush and of course floss, you do your oil pulling. Think of it like sweeping your floors before you mop.

Now if you are a novice in this the first thing you need to know is you can NOT spit your oil in the sink or toilet, it goes in the trash. DO NOT swallow the oil either, it will contain all the gunk you are trying to get out so putting it further in the body only makes things worse. Also it needs to be done for at least 20 minutes, so¬†it is best to do it with your teeth routine since I learned you can do it on the go. A lady I spoke to who is a huge fan of oil pulling said she just takes an old grocery bag with her in her pocket if she leaves the house and will go shopping while she swishes! Then when done she just nips into a restroom, spits it out into her bag, and done!¬†Oil pulling won’t cure cancer, like some people claim, but I know that a good friend of mine use it to help treat her wisdom tooth pain, and she swears by it for all sorts of mouth related issues.

The reason this works is that bacteria generally have a membrane surrounding them that is made of lipids, which is fat. Oil is made of lipids (also fat) and you are basically swishing bacteria glue around in your mouth, they can’t help but bind to the oil. Then when you spit it out you are removing that bacteria, as well as moisturizing the delicate¬†skin of your gums and mouth. You can even rub vitamin E oil directly on your gums to help with inflammation and healing! Though this is an ancient remedy, dating back possibly about 3,000 years or more, it is still relevant and shown by the limited clinical studies that there is a real value to using this Ayurvedic traditional cure.

You want to use about a tablespoon of oil and swish it around in your mouth, if you can’t take that, its fine use less it is just enough for you to swish around easily. There are some oils that work better than others studies have found, Sunflower, Sesame and Coconut seem to be the top three oils that work the best for this sort of thing since they remove plaque, and help heal and clean the teeth. Also vitamin E oil and Olive seem to be close followers to the top three. You can buy pre-made Ayurvedic oils for pulling as well, that are sort of like a prescription for your body type (which I found to be highly spoken of). But you can probably get your hands on one of the above a lot easier (and sometimes cheaper). You don’t have to swish hard either, just a gentle swish from side to side in the mouth, occasionally sucking the oil through the teeth. The longer time spent swishing, the more gunk you pull out, so try to go as long as you can the first time since it can take some building up to go the full 20.

But, like Levar Burton says, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

You can read more from WebMD on oil pulling here and you can watch this video on oil pulling.

Fermented Foods!

Yup they aren’t just good for helping you get your vitamins¬†or helping you go by putting good bacteria back into your gut. This bacteria is also good for your mouth, and it can help if you have chronic bad breath that isn’t related to your teeth (gut smell can do that).¬†This can also help prevent outbreaks of fungal infections like Thrush, which no one wants Thrush. Plus it is an excuse to eat sauerkraut and kimchi all ¬†you want! wooo!

Again, the best thing to do is keep your teeth clean, brush regularly, after meals too. Floss gently, preferably with a water flossing device. Use no alcohol or peroxide mouthwashes, see your Dentist regularly. Watch your diet and add in some of these easy additional care steps and you should be able to be happy and healthy even without a pain condition.

Remember everyone’s body is different, experiment find the oils and combinations that work best for you and your body. Educate yourself, no one is going to do it for you and if you are in doubt at all in the slightest, ask a professional!

Author: defeatingpain

I am a Texan and in 2008 I was struck by an SUV while riding my bicycle, I have had C5-C6 and L4-S1 fused. While the surgery did a lot, I was left with Failed Back Syndrome and CRPS. I refuse to sit by and not have a hand in my own recovery, so, this blog documents my trials with finding natural solutions for chronic pain.

2 thoughts on “The Hidden Dangers of Dry Mouth

  1. We’ve been playing around with the idea of oil pulling for a while. I find it best done when I get in the shower each morning so that when I get out it’s almost time to spit.


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