Does your child often complain that his or her mouth is dry? Maybe you've noticed symptoms of dry mouth, such as frequent drinking, a red tongue and sores in the corners of the mouth, when you're observing your child. Dry mouth is not an issue that should be ignored, since it can increase the risk of dental caries and gum disease. If you think your child may have dry mouth, it is important to work with your dentist to figure out the cause and begin treating it. Here's a look at three common causes of dry mouth in children -- and how you can treat them.
Does your child suffer from allergies or frequent sinus infections? If so, he or she may be primarily breathing through the mouth rather than through the nose. This causes the mouth to dry out faster than the salivary glands can keep up with producing saliva.
Thankfully, mouth-breathing is pretty straightforward to treat. If allergies are to blame, your child's dentist and allergist can work together to find an allergy medication that will better alleviate your child's symptoms so he or she can breathe through the nose more easily. If frequent sinus infections are to blame, your doctor may need to dig a little deeper to find out why your child is coming down with so many sinus infections. Sometimes, nasal polyps or an irregular face structure may be to blame, but these issues can typically be corrected with minor surgeries. In the case of either allergies or sinus infections, wearing a sticky nasal strip over the bridge of the nose can help keep the nostrils open and encourage your child to breathe through his or her nose rather than the mouth.
There are also several lifestyle habits your child can adopt to keep his or her mouth moist in spite of breathing through the mouth. Sipping water throughout the day will help keep the mouth moist and will rinse away oral bacteria. Chewing on sugar-free gum can also help boost saliva production.
There are many different medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect. If your child is taking medications for a mood disorder, depression, allergies, asthma, or digestive issues, it's important to talk to the doctor who prescribed the medications and ask if your child's dry mouth may be caused by the meds. Your doctor may switch your child to a different medication or adjust his or her dose to combat the dry mouth. Your dentist can also evaluate your child's oral health and let you know if the dry mouth is serious enough that it's likely to cause issues if your child keeps taking medications, or if it's minor and continuing to take the medications is a better choice.
If your child must keep taking a medication that is causing dry mouth, the lifestyle remedies above -- drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum -- should be adopted to keep the mouth moist. Your dentist or physician may also recommend a medication to increase your child's saliva production. This would effectively counteract the negative effects of the other medication.
The answer could be as simple as "your child's just not drinking enough." Ongoing, mild dehydration can thwart saliva production, leading to dry mouth symptoms. Children who are preoccupied with play or who don't have access to beverages they particularly enjoy might forgo drinking.
Thankfully, it is easy to tell whether or not your child is dehydrated -- you don't need to go to the doctor to do this. Have your child leave his or her urine in the toilet a few times so you can observe its color. If your child's urine is any darker than a pale, honey color, he or she is not drinking enough.
If you suspect dehydration is an issue for your child, encourage him or her to drink more by:
- Offering drinks in your child's favorite cups
- Giving your child "liquid" foods like smoothies and soups more often
- Feeding frozen treats on hot days
- Buying your child his or her own special water bottle to carry around
If your child's dry mouth symptoms don't clear up as you encourage him or her to drink more, then see a dentist like those at Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics. He or she will evaluate your child for other potential causes of the dry mouth condition.