Thursday, August 20, 2015

All Dried Up

My pharmacopoeia
The good news is: I have access to excellent health care and can afford the medications I need to help me live as well as I can for as long as I can. The bad news: side effects.

As you can see in that picture, I'm on a good handful of medications. Most of these are to treat my diabetes or to mitigate against the effects of diabetes (i.e., cardiovascular disease). Others treat acid reflux, depression, and joint pain.

What doesn't show in the picture is that my diabetes along with the combination of all these medications has led to "dry mouth."

The first line of treatment for a dry mouth, of course, is to drink lots of water. I do that. In fact, I rarely am without a glass or bottle of water. I don't know if I drink a full two liters a day, but I'm close. Despite that, I routinely have shreds of skin peeling from the insides of my cheeks. For a while, I had a recurring sore inside my mouth.

Sing with me: I feel pretty, oh, so pretty!

We're still not sure whether that was caused by a bite that refused to heal or a clogged salivary duct, but in either case, lack of moisture was a factor, and it kept coming back for months.

The lack of moisture also has implications for my dental health, of course: the juices that usually rinse the teeth just aren't there and, even though I brush and floss, it's hard to keep up. I used to go for cleanings annually; I now go every six months.

The myth is that lack of salivation is the cause of mouth dryness. While that is a major factor, the mucous membranes themselves aren't producing sufficient secretions to allow tissues to glide past each other without causing damage. The mucus secretions are more viscous than saliva and provide a more lasting effect.

There are prescription medications that help with salivation, but I hardly need to add another pill to my arsenal, so here's what I've found to address the symptoms (in case any of you also have this problem).

Treatment for dry mouth (I should have included my glass of water in this picture.)

My dentist introduced me to the mint-flavored Biotene line of products -- and they are a godsend. The toothpaste and mouthwash are pretty standard, soothing stuff, but the gel and the spray are thicker and actually perform more like a mucous layer. The gel is kind of gross to use: you draw a line of it on your tongue and then spread it around your mouth. It's thick, so try not to gag. The spray is wonderful; I keep one in my purse.

The other two things in the picture are sweetened with xylitol, rather than sugar or aspartame -- Xyla candy and the PÜR gum (Spry gum and candy are also good). Xylitol actually promotes dental health while they also promote salivation. Some of these are easier to find in health-food stores, though the gum is becoming quite popular.

So that's where I'm at. I'm not exactly drooling, but I am more comfortable these days.

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