Although not generally considered a hot button topic in dentistry, xerostomia or dry mouth is a chronic issue that plagues more Americans than many might think. Also known as xerostomia or hyposalivation, dry mouth affects 30% of the population. It plagues people worse at night, when the saliva flow decreases, and its symptoms include halitosis, sleep disturbance, acid reflux, gum disease, and tooth decay. Researchers estimate that dry mouth is caused by 63% of the 200 most commonly prescribed medications, including treatment for Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Aging also contributes to the development and progression of dry mouth.
Oral moisturizers can go a long toward thwarting the unpleasant effects of living with this condition. However, in order to be both effective and safe, these oral moisturizers must contain a certain pH level. Unfortunately, many of these remedies contain a pH that is acidic and may cause tooth erosion or demineralization of enamel or dentin, increasing the risks of caries. An August 2017 study reported that, to be safe, oral moisturizers should possess a pH of 6.7 or higher. The study noted that oral moisturizers that fall below the threshold of 5.5 are dangerous for usage, and can lead to tooth erosion.
Considering those findings, it’s alarming to note that a March 2018 study conducted by the University of Florida found a harmful level of acidity in several US oral moisturizers. The study aimed to measure pH levels, titratable acidity, and actual dentin erosion. The following seven oral moisturizers sold in the US were identified as dangerously acidic with a pH level below 5.5:
– OraMoist®, by DenTek™ (2.9 pH)
– Mouth Kote®, by Parnell Pharmaceuticals (3.0 pH)
– Cotton Mouth Lozenges®, by Cotton Mouth Candy Company (3.1 pH)
– MedActive® Oral Relief Lozenges (3.2 pH)
– Hager Pharma Dry Mouth Drops (4.4 pH)
– Rite Aid® Dry Mouth Discs (5.1 pH)
– CVS Pharmacy™ Dry Mouth Discs (5.3 pH)
One dentist, upon learning about this research, has made it a point to create a change. Dr. Greg Grillo, an Omak, Washington-based clinician, is encouraging his fellow dental professionals across the nation to sign a petition geared towards the manufacturers of said oral care products. The goal of this petition is to remove these detrimental products from the shelves, until they are reformulated to meet healthy pH standards. Dr. Grillo is concerned for the safety of any consumer who utilizes these oral moisturizers. “As dentists, we see the ravages of xerostomia in our patients quite often,” remarked Dr. Grillo, a former US Navy Dental officer, and current senior partner at Grillo Robeck Dental in North Central Washington. “It is counterproductive for dry mouth patients to be offered remedies that escalate demineralization of enamel or dentin. As such, we’re seeking immediate removal of these products until their acidity levels are made safe for dry mouth sufferers. By signing the petition or by writing directly to these manufacturers, we will let them know that the products they are selling are unacceptable.”
All dental professionals interested in signing the petition should visit the petition site
Dr. Grillo is urging those who sign the petition to recruit their colleagues to also get involved. His mission is to look out for the wellness of dry mouth patients and to help them identify solutions to the challenges they face by providing education on the detrimental effects low pH levels can have on their teeth.