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Have Dry Mouth? You're Not The Only One

Have Dry Mouth? You're Not The Only One

Dry mouth is a common side effect for HIV-positive people on multiple kinds of medications. What can we do to reverse it? 

Never underestimate the importance of spit, folks. Every living animal needs it: you, me, our dogs/cats, even the birds in the trees.

Unfortunately, the power of saliva is often ignored, as well as the absence of it.

Dry mouth (or “xerostomia”) is a common side effect with people adhering to medications. And while losing spit might not seem dangerous at first, the real concern lies with what happens after. You see, one of the main jobs of saliva is to prevent infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. For HIV-positive people with co-existing diseases, this can be a major problem.

According to Health Grades, there are numerous drugs that have been shown to cause dry mouth, including antihypertensive drugs (like alpha blockers and beta blockers), drugs prescribed to help treat urinary incontinence, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, antidiarrheal/gastric medications, Bronchodilators, pain killers, diuretics (or “water pills”), even some antibiotics.

Without spit to moisten/cleanse our mouths and to help digest food, we also increase the risk of other mouth problems, like swollen salivary glands, mouth ulcers, gingivitis, candidiasis (or thrush), even herpes.

As AIDS Map reports, mouth problems are more likely to occur in people with low T-cells, as it points to early signs of damage to the immune system. Dry mouth itself isn’t life threatening, of course, but for those with co-morbidities, it is likely to be a case of chronic discomfort, as well as a silent-but-deadly enemy.

So how can we combat it?

Besides drinking more water, there are many habits we can pick up, or rid ourselves from, that will help protect our mouths from getting drier due to meds. Some are:

* Stop smoking! Smoke inside your mouth will likely dry up saliva. 

* Limiting your caffeine intake, as it caffeine dries out your mouth naturally.

* Chew sugar-free gum or suck sugar-free hard candies to stimulate the flow of saliva.

* Equip yourself with a room humidifier.
* Stop using mouthwashes that contain alcohol, as alcohol dries the mouth.
* Try breathing through your nose more often, rather than your mouth. 
* Start brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and adhere to your tooth heath (in particularly watch the risk of tooth decay). 

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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David Artavia