Dry mouth dangers

Georgia professor develops special gum to help patients

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - It's that sticky or dry feeling in the mouth all of us get once in a while. But for some, it could be more than just an inconvenience. It's believed 44 million Americans suffer from the problem. Now, Ivanhoe breaks down the dangers of dry mouth.

ER nurse Lauren Geeter is always on the move, but a side effect of her acid reflux meds made constant water breaks a part of her routine.

"I knew my mouth was dry, but I guess I always had dry mouth and never really thought of it as anything," said Lauren Geeter.

Her dry mouth resulted in a mouth full of cavities.

"If the bacteria are growing in their mouth, there could be a systemic threat to their whole body," explained Stephen Hsu, Ph.D., Professor of Oral Biology at Georgia Regents University, formally known as Georgia Health Sciences University.

Hsu says ignoring it can lead to lots of trouble.

Saliva neutralizes acid and protects against bacterial growth. Dry mouth results in a lack of saliva and can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

If you're one of the millions with dry mouth, cutting out things high in sugar and acid like soda, sports drinks and candy is a good idea. Hsu says green tea extract is also a great way to fight the problem.

"We found a lot of protective properties from the green tea polyphenols," said Hsu.

He's even developed a special chewing gum to stimulate saliva flow.

Eating fibrous foods can help make up for a lack of mouth-cleaning saliva. Harvard experts say crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots are mild abrasives that can remove bacteria and plaque from teeth. People with the problem should also use alcohol-free mouthwashes and check the labels of their toothpaste; if it contains the dry mouth irritant sodium lauryl sulfate, find a new brand.

Today, Geeter uses Hsu's gum to help take care of her dry mouth, so she can focus on taking care of others.

The Mayo Clinic recommends a few other home remedies. Running a humidifier at night can help with dry mouth, and breathing through your nose instead of your mouth can also be beneficial. Also, avoid over-the-counter anti-histamines and decongestants; they can make your symptoms worse.

For more information on the dry mouth chewing gum called MighTeaFlow, go to www.camelix.com.

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