January 5, 2010

Salvation in Salivation

I started thinking about this post when my dry mouth was becoming particularly troublesome as winter finds yet another way to make me miserable.  Dry air from heaters, mouth breathing even more than usual due to a chronically stuff nose, and the brutal damage the cold, dry air (let alone wind!) does to my lips have often left me with a mouth and throat so dry, even I could swallow my throat walls would stick together.  (Have you ever tried to 'unstick' your throat?  It's freaky/annoying/next to impossible!)  Oh, and did I mention the split lips?  Yeah, reaaaal attractive.

Today, I was involved in two discussions on an SS support group on Facebook that dealt, in part, with progressing dry mouth.  So, here are my thoughts on dry mouth (actually, you've heard most of them already), along with some products and tips I've tried or want to try.

Medication: I would normally put this category last, but this time I think it might be more logical to list it first.
Evoxac and Salagen - these pharmaceuticals are somewhat new (last 5-10 years I think).  I was formerly a patient of the doctor instrumental in their creation, but he was an...ahem...hm...not good doctor (almost forgot this was a public forum) so I found a new one.  Under his "care", I tried these but did not end up staying on them.  For most people I've heard from and my experience, they do work.  They increase saliva production - often dramatically, and frequently have the added effects of tear and sweat production.  Sometimes, this is good... but again, according to my trial and most people I've heard from, it can be too extreme to tollerate.  The increased salivation often leads to excessive drooling (I felt nauseus from swallowing so much of it), and naturally the sweating can be problematic for some people.  Furthermore, when you take a dose (which, by the way, you have to keep increasing because your body quickly adjusts to the medication) it gives what I call a "kick in the face".  Within minutes, I quite literally felt like my face had been smashed - sinus pressure, headache, and the sudden tearing/salivating adds to the I've-been-beaten-up sensation.  Most of this does pass (the headache sometimes lingered for me), but happens again with the next dose, and ESPECIALLY if you were a few minutes late with the next dose.  Lastly, a clinical side effect of the drug can be racing heart/palpitations/etc, which are already a problem for me - and this definitely made mine worse.

Now, onto my more preferred ideas...
Dry Mouth Dental Care Products: Here, I'm referring specifically to over the counter products manufactured specifically for dry mouth relief.
Biotene Products -
  1. The brand Biotene markets an entire line of products for us dental-desert dwellers.  I use the gel-toothpaste...it takes a little getting used to because it doesn't foam (the ingredients that make normal toothpaste do that are damaging to dry mouths) and isn't as strong a flavor as traditional products, but that has its advantages too. 
  2. On some nights, I use the 'oral balance' gel.  It's nearly the same texture and flavor as the gel-toothpaste, but you simply apply a thin layer across your tongue and other tissue in your mouth (gums, cheeks) according to your personal needs.  It's definitely not an unpleasant taste, but I have to consciously avoid swallowing all of it.  That's why I use it right before bed, if I use it and stay awake I just keep downing it.  It took takes getting used to, and it's a little awkward to try to slime your mouth with a finger full of gel, but honestly not that big of a deal.
  3. Their gum is pretty good...again, not an overwhelmingly strong flavor (which I like), but if you have another gum you like I don't think I'd worry about switching.  Also, I always end up chewing 2 piecesat a time because they're small, and that with the fact that the packages don't contain many pieces can make it unnecesarily costly.
  4. While I haven't used their spray, I have tried another brand (see below), and I imagine they're similar.
  5. I would like to try the "liquid", if I do I'll let you know how that works out.
  6. I don't use their mouthwash, but mostly because I use one of the ACT ones and am happy with it.
Oasis - This competitor to Biotene makes a mouthwash and oral spray.  I've used the spray with some success (though I might try Biotene's to see if it's better), and the mouthwash with no real response at all.  I wasn't bad, but I wasn't terribly impressed.  I will warn you, though, the spray is VERY weird.  Not to be gross but the texture is thicker than you'd expect, more like real spit.  If/when you can get past that, you'll be fine.

Dry Mouth Discs - I've tried one brand, OraMoist, with no success.  Another brand, XyliMelt, has caught my eye lately, but don't know if I'll spend to try it anytime soon.  These odd products are disks, somewhat like an old-fashion cert mint but a bit smaller, which are designed to adhere to the roof of your mouth or inside your cheek.  In theory, they contain an ingredient which helps stimulate salivary production until they eventually disolve after a few hours.  I wonder if my dry mouth is too severe (or if the fact that mine is from damaged glands is a problem), because I didn't end up salivating much at all.  The disk just got kinda slimy until I finally got annoyed and pried it out, but I wonder if someone whose glands do still function would have had more success...maybe it was like trying to get blood from a stone.

Other Remedies: Here, I'm thinking about products or tricks that can help dry mouth but are not manufactured or marketed specifically for this purpose.  Also, I realize you've heard of many of these...bear with me.
Gum - Chewing gum is an excellent remedy.  Naturally, you should try to use sugar-free, but for one more reason than you might know - Xylitol, sometimes used as an artificial sweetner in gum, is known to have mouth-moistening effects!  The chewing motion stimulates glands through both motion and the signal it sends to your brain (your brain hears "I'm chewing -> food must be present -> to get the nutrients the food must be broken down -> send in the saliva!").  It can also help physically remove or inhibit plaque, dental debris, and general oral ick.

Hard Candy - Using the same general principles as chewing gum, sucking on hard candy can stimulate saliva production.  Again, if you can use sugar-free, you're in good shape, but I find it too tempting to use sugar-filled candy which is bad for both my teeth and waistline.  Side note - especially for those who also have the lovely GI side effects of SS, going with traditional red and white peppermints is great because the peppermint oil (look for the real thing) helps settle upset stomachs and aide in digestion.  I swear by this trick, especially when I've overeaten.

Water - Yep, sorry, it's still one of the best.  Drinking a lot of water helps flush out debris, inhibit plaque, and keep things from sticking together.  As you know, it probably won't help with the last part for long, though.

Salt Water Rinse - Every dentist's best friend, the warm-water-with-a-little-salt swish.  Put just enough salt in your room temperature water to begin to make it cloudy and do your best Listerine commercial impression.  The salt does actually help soothe irritated tissue, reducing burning, redness, swelling, and even helping to dull pain.  If you gargle too, you'll also give a karate chop to the bacteria in the back of your mouth/throat that cause bad breathe.  If you did it right, the water probably seemed a little gross because your tastebuds would actually prefer it saltier, but that can irritate instead of soothe.

Lip Balm - Ok so technically this doesn't touch dry mouth interiors, but don't neglect your lips.  They'll suffer faster and be sure to let you know it.  Dry lips are more suceptible to bacteria and viruses, and who needs a nasty cold sore.  According to my research, the same products that work best for our sensitive, damaged tissue (olive oil, beeswax, coconut or cocoa butters/oils) happen to be the ones found in all-natural balms.  So, I regularly peruse my drug store for the newest all-natural products to give them a shot.  A lot of people swear  by Bert's Bees, and with good reason.  Personally, my all time favorite is Lipsyl!  It's a lot like Bert's (beeswax based), but comes in a generous oval-shaped tube that more naturally accomodates lips, goes on smoother, lasts longer, and has the coolest little 'bee' on the slider bar.  It appeals to both the big and little kids in me:)

1 comment:

  1. My dentists has informed me that hard candy isn't really beneficial, sugar free or not. Another great product that I like more than Biotone and the others is Epic. The Biotene spray, well, I found to be disgusting, but another brand's spray that comes in Vanilla Mint is really good. I believe it is either Epic or Oasis. I did purchase some Biotene gum in a pinch because it is easier to find than Epic. The Epic gum, you do have to order online. The advise from my dentist is that for any of these products to be beneficial, you need to be very diligent in using them.

    On lip balm, one I found that works wonders, is C. O. Bigelow, from Bath and Body Works. The rose tin that contains rose oil, wax and other emoilants works wonders. According to Consumer Reports, petroleum based products are more moisturizing and stay on your lips longer than wax based products, but I love beeswaxed 4roducts myself as well.


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