Reader’s Question: I am awakened every night with a very dry mouth. Flax oil helps some, but can you suggest another solution?
Dr. Glenn Rothfeld: You may not give saliva much thought — IF you’ve got enough of it.
We desperately need it for the breaking down of the foods we eat… and preventing bacteria from building up in our mouths… and when your body doesn’t produce enough of it, your dry mouth could be severe enough to be “diagnosed” with something called xerostomia (which comes from the Greek words for “dry,” xeros, and “mouth” or “opening,” stomia).
Mainstream doctors typically recommend sucking on a lozenge or chewing some gum — and they’re not wrong! (More on that in a second.)
But when it comes to getting those salivary glands back up and running, they’re missing a big part of the picture. Because you can’t just “wet” your mouth when it’s dry. You’ve got to figure out what the root cause of the dryness is.
When one of my patients comes to me with dry mouth, I look for other conditions like Laryngopharyngeal Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (LERD) and Sjögren’s syndrome, as well as radiation therapies and medications used to manage other illnesses.
If we can treat the underlying cause, we can often get the saliva flowing again!
But in the meantime, there’s something all-natural that can help address dry mouth and any other related issues that may linger (bad breath, difficulty eating or swallowing, or poor dental hygiene to name a few).
And believe it or not, it’s a sugar!
A naturally occurring “sugar alcohol,” xylitol is found in berries, vegetables, seed hulls, and nutshells. It’s actually also found in the human body, but here’s the problem: We can’t make or eat enough of this stuff to prevent the dry mouth, tooth decay, and other issues that arise with aging.
I’ll tell you how to get it in a moment — but first, a real-life success story.
As reported by the Dental Products Report and Modern Dental Network early last year, an 88-year-old woman with a history of dry mouth experienced “a significant reduction in perceived oral dryness and discomfort” — without unwanted side effects — after using xylitol-releasing adhesive discs every night before bed for a year.
Now, any kind of hard candy or chewing gum may help activate those salivary glands, but not all sugars were created equal. (And some were created in a mad scientist’s laboratory!)
But xylitol offers the added benefits of battling bacteria — specifically, Streptoccus mutans (which can lead to tooth decay and cavities) — and, because it acts as a natural lubricant, helping relieve sinus infection, allergy, and asthma.
You can find xylitol in gums, toothpastes, mints, mouthwashes, supplements, and other products. I usually recommend aiming for a method that promotes extended release, regular use, or continued presence in your mouth.
There’s something else that this moisturising natural treatment can relieve — especially this time of year — and I’ve got the complete story for you in the February issue of my Nutrition & Healing newsletter, which is on its way to you.
Got something else “stuck in your teeth?” Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may choose yours to chew on next.Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing