Many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic---anxiety, isolation, self-medication---have the potential to impact healthy salivation. Here are several considerations for what is increasing the risk for both patients and clinicians, and how RDHs are helping connect patients with the right products.
Like so much in our lives, dry mouth has taken on a new complexity and urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dental hygiene profession has been one of the foremost advocates for awareness of how dry mouth can decimate oral health. Ironically, dental professionals are now reporting symptoms of dehydration, including dry mouth, from wearing enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE). Many hygienists have also shared with me that they are seeing increased levels of dental disease in patients (including health-care professionals) since the onset of the pandemic.
This trend has many causes---increased access to decay-promoting foods while staying home, stress, medication, drug abuse, financial hardships, access to care issues, and so on, and the profession will not have peer-reviewed studies pinpointing the precise issues for some time. However, as clinicians in the trenches, dental professionals are currently faced with helping patients (and one another) navigate these new challenges and preventing an oral health disaster. The mouth is a complex ecological system, and changing one aspect---in this case, the amount of saliva present---can be disastrous.
First, a note on what exactly the term dry mouth syndrome means. Xerostomia is the patient's perception of dry mouth, while hyposalivation is the pathological condition of decreased or absent saliva flow. It is also important to note that by the time a patient notices that his or her mouth is feeling dry, saliva flow may have already been reduced by as much as half.