ANNOUNCER: Many older people suffer from dry mouth-- the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: My dry mouth is just always there. Periodically, during the day, I will have some saliva...
ANNOUNCER: Carla Prokovsky has found that dry mouth affects her life in very basic ways.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: And that begins to affect when I'm talking. And if I'm not--don't have my water with me, or I'm not chewing gum or something, I find it very difficult to talk to people.
ANNOUNCER: Because dry mouth can cause problems in everyday life, people should seek help if they think they have a problem.
BRUCE BAUM, D.M.D., Ph.D.: If a patient experiences a dry mouth for more than a couple of days and it becomes an inconvenience or bother, I think they should consult their dentist or physician.
ANNOUNCER: There is no cure for dry mouth but there are treatments, depending on what is causing the problem. If you take medication and you have dry mouth, check with your doctor. He or she might change your medicine or adjust the dosage. If your salivary glands are not working right but are still able to produce some saliva, your dentist or doctor might give you a medicine that helps the glands work better.
BRUCE BAUM: If the patient has some salivary gland tissue remaining and we can use drugs to stimulate salivary secretion from that remaining tissue, then that often can provide relief to the patient and be beneficial in terms of tooth decay, sores, infections, swallowing.
ANNOUNCER: Your doctor may also suggest you use artificial saliva or a gel to keep your mouth wet.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: They're a very clear kind of toothpaste-consistency material and I do just rub that into my mouth at night. And that does help me get through the night better.
ANNOUNCER: Drinking lots of water or sugarless drinks can help keep your mouth moist and makes eating easier.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: I always have to supplement my food with water or a liquid. I always have to drink something with anything that I eat because otherwise it just doesn't swallow--it doesn't go down.
ANNOUNCER: Another way to manage dry mouth is to chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy. Avoid alcohol and drinks that contain caffeine-- they dry out the mouth. Tobacco also dries the mouth so don't smoke or chew tobacco. You might find, as Carla did, that salty and spicy foods are painful to your dry mouth.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: Your tongue feels sandy, almost, at some times. And I have a very difficult time with very spicy things-- they burn my mouth.
ANNOUNCER: Finally, if you have dry mouth, it's important to see your dentist on a regular basis because having less saliva increases the chances of tooth decay or an infection in your mouth. By taking steps to manage her dry mouth, Carla has learned to take it in stride.
CARLA PROKOVSKY: To cope with my dry mouth, I think it's just one of those things that you live with. I mean, there are other things that could be very much worse, and I do take very good care of my teeth and that's just with a good daily regime of dental hygiene. And for the most part, I kind of stay ahead of the things but every three months to the dentist and he always finds something.