It’s just not fair! The sun is out, everyone you know is enjoying the summer and you’re sat inside with the doors and windows shut, your eyes itching, streaming down your face, nose running and constant sneezing.1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from it and if you are unlucky enough like me, you will know what I’m talking about: HAYFEVER!
With pollen season in full swing I thought it apt to explore the subject and how it can affect your oral health. As I write we are mid-May which is when hayfever sufferer numbers peak; 95% of hayfever sufferers are allergic to grass pollen, which is usually present from mid-May to July.
There are many preventative/self help measures to take during this time but most people choose to take antihistamines, which can help prevent an allergic reaction from happening and/or corticosteroids (steroids), which help to reduce the levels of inflammation and swelling. For many of us antihistamines are a regular, every-day tablet that we take without looking at the possible side effects. But did you know that antihistamines can give you a dry mouth? This can also be exacerbated by mouth breathing, something many sufferers find themselves prone to as a result of blocked or running noses.
But what is the significance of a dry mouth?
We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths, digest food and to help us to swallow. It also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth and saliva has a vital role in fighting tooth decay. Reduced saliva levels can lead to a dry, uncomfortable mouth and medically it is known as xerostomia. Xerostomia increases the risk of developing gum disease (periodontal disease), tooth decay, and mouth infections, such as oral thrush. Having less saliva can also affect the taste of food and makes it harder to eat drier foods. Sometimes it can affect your speech and can make you more likely to have bad breath (halitosis).
Antihistamines are not the only medication that can give you a dry mouth. Others include antihypertensives and antidepressants, but there are many more. If you are worried about the effect your medication is having on your oral health speak to one of our dentists and they can give you some advice on how to counteract the effects of a dry mouth.
This can include artificial saliva and extra fluoride measures but I personally find sipping water throughout the day, chewing sugar free gum or sucking sugar free sweets helps to keep my mouth moist and encourages more saliva to be produced. Also an extra little tip from me…drinking hot, unsweetened drinks, such as tea, throughout the day helps me to decongest (use it as your own little steam inhalator).
So to all you non-sufferers out there…the next time you decide to mow your lawn, please spare a thought for those of us who (as my 5 year old son said) are ‘Allergic to Summer’.
Emme. Practice manager