Senior Oral Care - Medications and Dry Mouth
Many seniors citizens suffer from dry mouth and the negative effects of having reduced saliva in the mouth such as less effective digestive processes, increased tooth decay, and oral infections. The primary cause of dry mouth with seniors is pointing at prescription medication. Other culprits include diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, chemotherapy, radiation, and nerve damage.
As we head into our mid-sixties, our saliva production overall is reduced, however we now understand that around 400 prescribed medications (some sources suggest an estimated 60% of all prescriptions) and to a lesser extent over the counter drugs cause a large majority of the problems associated with dry mouth syndrome (also called xerostomia).
The senior population is often, unfortunately, the recipients of chronic over medicating, while doctors with the best of intentions chase an ever-increasing list of health symptoms. A patient would come in with a common complaint of edema (fluid retention) in the legs, next they have a prescription for a diuretic (a drug/substance that increases the excretion of water) then they are battling an unfortunate series of oral health challenges living with the uncomfortable feeling of dry mouth. A diuretic prescription is a good example of all the drug types listed above, the class known as diuretics is the most commonly linked to xerostomia. Medications that are the most common cause of dry mouth include painkillers, diuretics, blood pressure medicine, antidepressants, antihistamines, asthma drugs, and muscle relaxants. In my practice (Acupuncture &Herbology) I was somewhat surprised by the list of medications that seniors were taking. Many of these were not reviewed often enough and in my opinion, many were completely unnecessary or useless. I remember treating several patients who were taking Vioxx at the time and thinking to myself something just does not seems right. Vioxx was the arthritis drug that caused approximately 140,000 heart attacks resulting in an estimated 60,000 deaths.
Saliva helps remove unhealthy bacteria from the gums, and therefore without enough saliva, the mouth becomes dry, and can over time weaken teeth. By salivating, your mouth helps you taste and digest what you eat and drink. Food particles get flushed from your teeth and acid is washed away as well, which helps prevent tooth decay (cavities). Continual decay interferes with the production of saliva in the mouth, causing a chronic condition that becomes a cycle: decay reduces saliva, the lack of which allows bacteria to remain in the mouth, exacerbating decay.
So why do medications cause dry mouth?
There does not seem to be a clear understanding of why this happens, especially as each drug would have a different metabolic pathway leading to differing hypotheses. Possibly we can get an idea if we look at the cannabis ‘cotton mouth’ sensation. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, binds to receptors in the salivary glands causing them to be less active. The Thera Wise Adult toothbrush is the first toothbrush that can offer assistance to help improve dry mouth symptoms due to medical treatments and medications due to a compromised oral microbiome. By selectively being able to reduce the number of ‘bad’ bacteria in the mouth (like Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli (E-coli), Pseudomonas aeruginosa) through it’s naturally antibacterial properties, the Thera Wise Adult brush can be an effective tool in assisting those struggling with the negative effects of reduced saliva in the mouth. Our Adult customers of all ages love the feeling this brush leaves in the mouth and its ability to reduce bacteria that cause bad breath.
Due to Thera Wise Adult Toothbrush not needing toothpaste for efficacy, this brush can also be very helpful for adults with cognitive impairments where brushing with toothpaste and properly rinsing may be challenging. Within this group, toothpaste texture and ability to rinse toothpaste from the mouth is often problematic.
One of our other important considerations when designing this brush was the egonomics capabilities of all adult ages. Much thought went into the brush handle and neck design. Thera Wise Adult Brush is easily suited for adults with less manual dexterity with the easy hold rubber grip and balance that allows more fluid fine movements. The flexible neck provides an additional safety feature as does the ultra-soft bristles ensuring comfort and functionality for those dealing with sensitive teeth and gums.