What Causes Dry Mouth with Dentures? Problems, Solutions, and More
Dry mouth is a common issue that impacts people of all ages and can be particularly problematic for denture wearers. It increases the risk of oral irritation and can lead to mouth sores, inflammation, and other issues. Your dentures may also struggle to maintain their grip, making it difficult to eat and leading to a lot of frustration as they move around.
In this guide, we will look at some of the common causes of dry mouth in seniors while helping you to find a solution.
Causes of Dry Mouth in Denture Wearers
The older you are, the more likely you are to suffer from dry mouth and the oral health problems that it creates. As you can see below, some of these risk factors are avoidable, most are not.
It’s more common for seniors to take medications because they are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems, including lung and heart disorders, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and more. They may even take medications to deal with the side effects of other medications, including diuretics to combat water retention, sedatives to deal with insomnia, and anti-nausea tablets to combat sickness.
Dry mouth is one of the most common side effects of prescription and non-prescription medications, and in some cases, especially with large and regular doses, it can be quite severe. Some of the many medications that cause dry mouth include:
- Acne medications
- Anti-anxiety medications (including sedatives)
- Anti-nausea medications
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- Medications for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Blood pressure medications
- Heart medications (beta-blockers, etc.,)
- Diuretics (designed to remove excess water from the body)
- Seizure medications
- Pain killers (in particular opioid-based analgesics)
You may also notice these side effects with common over-the-counter medications, even those that you have been taking for many years without issue.
Smoking can do some serious damage to your lungs and heart, but it can also impact your oral health. It restricts the flood of blood in your mouth, which means wounds take longer to heal, inflammation hangs around for longer, and you become prone to issues such as receding gums, gum disease, and more. And that’s before you consider the stains that smoking can leave on your teeth and dentures.
Chewing tobacco can be just as harmful, if not more so. Those little pieces of tobacco have a habit of clinging to your dentures and leaving their mark on your teeth and gums.
It’s often incorrectly assumed that lifelong smokers have stained and decayed teeth because of tar and poor dental hygiene. But the truth is, even if they brush regularly, floss often, and see their dentist at the first sign of trouble, their habit will still catch up to them. The gums may recede, decay may set in, and tooth loss becomes more common. In fact, if you’re a long-time smoker wearing dentures, there’s a good chance that your habit had some influence on your decision to wear dentures.
Along with all of these issues, nicotine also causes dry mouth by restricting the flow of saliva. And don’t think that you can escape this side effect by vaping, as you may just make it worse. Not only do are you still getting a dose of nicotine, but chemicals like propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin can intensify the issue as well.
Alcohol dries out your mouth and also dehydrates the body, impacting your physical and oral health. Excessive consumption can leave you with a chronic dry mouth. If you’ve ever woken up with a hangover and a mouth that tastes like death, you’ll have first-hand experience of the dehydrating effects of this substance. Now imagine the same thing happening to you every time you drink, and you’ll begin to understand just how much alcohol can affect your oral health.
Recreational Drug Use
Some recreational drugs can cause dry mouth and other oral health problems. Methamphetamine is often highlighted as a drug of concern due to the infamous “meth mouth”, whereby sufferers lose multiple teeth. However, you don’t need to abuse addictive drugs to experience adverse reactions and even occasional consumption of cannabis will harm your teeth and gums.
Cannabis flowers, just like tobacco, can cause your mouth to dry out, and you don’t even need to smoke them to feel those effects. Low THC-hemp flowers are usually a little more preferable. The act of smoking can still dry your mouth but as these flowers focus more on CBD than THC, you won’t get the same psychoactive high and so you won’t experience the same adverse reactions.
Diabetes, stroke, yeast infection, HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, and a host of other diseases and illnesses can cause dry mouth. It may be worsened by the introduction of medications used to treat the symptoms or the disease, as well as the ways in which it impacts your lifestyle.
Your body becomes less efficient at staying hydrated as you age. However, in the absence of other contributing factors, most notably medication, alcohol consumption, and illness, it shouldn’t be enough to cause problems with your dentures and general oral health.
Solutions for Denture Wearers with Dry Mouth
As you can see, dry mouth is just one of the unfortunate quirks of aging and is something that we all have to deal with. It can make life difficult for you as a denture wearer, but there are a few ways that you can remedy the issue, as these solutions show.
Dentures for Dry Mouth
A properly-fitted set of dentures won’t need copious amounts of denture adhesive. It’s designed to work on suction alone, and for that, you need a little saliva. If you have a dry mouth, you may find that you become more and more reliant on adhesive, using increasing amounts of the substance to find the perfect fit.
There is another way, though. Implant-supported dentures should never need adhesive. They are a little more expensive, but they are also guaranteed to stay in place. Your dentist will screw implants through your gums and into your jaw. These screws remain lodged in place even when your gums begin to recede. Your dentures simply latch onto the implants and prevent them from moving around when you talk or chew.
Even when your mouth is dry and doesn’t provide the saliva needed to create suction, implant-supported dentures will stay strong and sturdy.
Speak to your dentist about this type of denture and discuss your options with them. Although they are more expensive, the exact price will depend on the dentist, your location, and how many implants are installed. They will also run a few tests to make sure you haven’t lost too much of your bone, otherwise, the implants won’t work.
Sugar-free chewing gum and sugar-free hard candies are great for stimulating saliva production and keeping your teeth strong and your mouth healthy. When you wear dentures, your options are a little more limited, but there are still some products out there that can help you.
Firstly, you should avoid hard candies where possible and, if you do eat them, make sure you suck and don’t chew. As for chewing gum, it can stick to your dentures and pull them out of place, but there are alternatives on the market that are a little more denture-friendly.
Freedent is a chewing gum that we have discussed many times on the XODENT blog. It was launched way back in the 1970s and advertises itself as a chewing gum that doesn’t stick. It has a large following among denture wearers and is available in three flavors.
There are lots of chewing gum brands tailored specifically toward consumers with chronic dry mouth, but only a small number are suitable for denture wearers, and this is the most important aspect. After all, these products don’t contain any magical saliva-stimulating ingredient and it’s the act of chewing itself that provides the benefits, so all chewing gum will give you the benefits that you seek.
One of the easiest and most obvious ways to stay hydrated is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. The recommendations for fluid intake change depending on who you ask, but if you start with at least 8 8oz glasses of water, then you’re on the right track. Add a cup of tea or coffee, along with a glass of fruit juice, and you should be getting more than enough water.
There are exceptions, though.
Anytime you lose more water than normal, you need to increase your intake. During the summer, you will likely need more water than you do during the winter. If you exercise a lot, you’ll lose more water than if you were to simply sit around the house all day.
You should always drink when you feel thirsty, but that’s not all, because the body can be a little slow at signaling thirst and this intensifies as you get older. Drink a glass or two in the morning, after exercise, and whenever you have spent a lot of time in the sun, as that’s when your body needs it the most.
Not only is proper hydration essential for good oral health, but it can also help with gut health, energy levels, and can even eradicate fatigue and improve your concentration. Many of the problems faced by seniors, including constipation, dry mouth, sluggishness, and poor concentration, can be improved by drinking an adequate amount of water.
Try to keep track of how much you drink and see if this has any impact on your health.
Eat a Whole Food Diet
Along with heat and exercise, your diet can also impact your recommended fluid intake. Someone who eats a diet rich in chips, processed meat, cheese, and highly-processed foods is always going to require less additional fluid than someone who subsists on a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables.
After all, fresh food is mostly water.
For example, let’s assume that you eat one cup of each of the following fruits over the course of the day:
In total, you will have consumed around 23 ounces of water, along with a host of vitamins and minerals. Depending on the guidelines you follow, that’s anywhere from a fifth to a third of your total recommended water intake, and it doesn’t include the milk that you have in your cereal, the water in your tea/coffee, or the vegetables that you consume throughout the day.
It’s possible to hit your hydration needs without drinking a single glass of water or fruit juice, although you should still seek to top-up your daily intake every now and then.
It is possible to drink too much water and overhydrate yourself, but for this to happen, you need to be guzzling glass after glass and drinking beyond the point at which it begins to feel uncomfortable.
Of course, your dentures may limit the types of fruits and vegetables that you can eat. Apples are usually problematic and best avoided, and the same goes for tough and fibrous mangoes. However, there are many more fruits out there, and if you want to add a little apple or carrot to your diet, you can just throw them in a smoothie or chop them into small pieces. Cooking helps, as well, although in this case, you’re removing a lot of the water and some of the nutrients.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
As noted already, alcohol is a leading cause of dry mouth and can trigger everything from bad breath to wobbly dentures and more when it is consumed to excess. If you want to stay hydrated, you need to limit your consumption of alcohol.
It’s often said that you can negate the effects of a hangover by drinking water while you consume alcohol. But it’s a myth, and while it might give you fresher breath and a more hydrated mouth at the time, it won’t have any impact on the level of dehydration that you experience in the morning. Just make sure you drink plenty of water and other fluids when the hangover hits. It’ll hydrate all of your body and should also help with your headache and lethargy.
Use an Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Overdoing it on the whiskey, beer, or wine isn’t the one way that alcohol can cause problems for your oral health. If you’re using alcohol-based mouthwash, you may suffer from some of the same issues. Alcohol is great for killing the bacteria that cause bad breath, but it also dries out your mouth, which means those problems return with a vengeance.
When you wear dentures, not only will alcohol-based mouthwash worsen your bad breath, but it will also dry out your gums and make it hard for your dentures to stick. If you keep using that mouthwash throughout the day, whether you’re rinsing away the remnants of a meal or preparing for bed, the problems will persist.
Skip the Caffeine
You’ve probably heard that coffee and tea are both dehydrating and that you need to compensate by drinking more water every time you consume these hot drinks. But that’s not true. Coffee and tea can and should be included in your total fluid intake and there is nothing wrong with enjoying a few cups every day.
It can become more problematic when you begin consuming them to excess, though, and you should also avoid energy drinks and coffee that contain an excessive amount of caffeine. What’s more, a strong cup of tea or coffee can make your mouth feel dry and uncomfortable. The tannins (bitter compounds found in tea, wine, and coffee) can dry out your mouth and even stain your dentures.
If you can’t start your day without a little caffeine, try something that is a little less bitter and doesn’t contain as much of this compound. Swap energy drinks for coffee; coffee for black tea; black tea for green tea.
Speak with Your Doctor or Dentist
If you’re worried about chronic dry mouth and the impact that it’s having on your gum health and dentures, speak with your doctor and/or your dentist. The former can look at your medications and see if there are any adjustments that can be made. The latter will see if there is an oral health problem that needs to be addressed and will make suggestions with regard to diet and lifestyle.
Refrain from stopping medications for the sole purpose of avoiding dry mouth, as it could cause more problems than it fixes.
Summary: Dentures and Dry Mouth
As you can see, there are numerous causes of dry mouth in denture wearers and many ways that this issue can cause problems. At the same time, however, most of these causes have very simple solutions, such as increasing your fluid intake, finding a chewing gum that doesn’t stick, and asking your doctor about making changes to your medications.
It’s a nuisance. It can leave you with mouth sores, inflammation, bad breath, and a constant feeling that something isn’t right, but if you keep all of these tips in mind, it’s also something that could be remedied with relative ease!