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Do Dry Mouth Sprays Work?

Do Dry Mouth Sprays Work?

For people with dry mouth (medically known as ‘xerostomia’), everyday tasks like talking, eating and swallowing can be difficult and even dangerous. 

Finding simple, effective ways to manage dry mouth can help minimise the impact it has on your day-to-day life, which raises the question: do dry mouth sprays actually work, or are they too good to be true?

In this article, we’ll discuss what dry mouth sprays are, how they work, and how their effectiveness stacks up against other dry mouth solutions like gums, washes and lozenges.  

What is a dry mouth spray?

Dry mouth sprays are typically liquids contained in small bottles, dispersed into the mouth as a mist via a pump nozzle.  Although different companies have different formulae for their sprays, the best dry mouth sprays are both hydrating and saliva-stimulating – they help moisten your mouth, while also helping your salivary glands create more saliva.

One of Australia’s best dry mouth sprays is Osmist, an Australian-made spray featuring active natural ingredients like grapeseed oil, papaya enzymes, and peppermint oil.  

How do dry mouth sprays work?

Dry mouth sprays can help fight xerostomia and keep your mouth moist in a variety of different ways.  To keep things simple, we’ll look at how Osmist works.

Dry Mouth Spray Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you can find in a bottle of Osmist:

  • Grapeseed oil
  • Papaya
  • Peppermint oil
  • Tocopheryl acetate
  • Ethanol
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Sodium benzoate

Each component plays a unique role in keeping your mouth hydrated.

Potassium sorbate is an odourless, tasteless salt commonly used in lots of different food and lifestyle products to extend shelf life.  Osmist uses less than 0.1% of potassium sorbate to keep its natural ingredients fresh and active.

Sodium benzoate and ethanol are also both used as preservatives; ethanol acts as a carrier for sodium benzoate.  Both are present in tiny amounts, at approximately 0.03 ml ethanol and 0.05 g sodium per bottle.  Although potassium, sodium and alcohol can all dry out your mouth if consumed in significant quantities, they’re virtually undetectable in Osmist, and have no effect on your mouth’s hydration.

So what about tocopheryl acetate, the other tongue-twister in the Osmist formula?  Tocopheryl acetate is actually a form of vitamin E, and is used in many beauty products because of its excellent antioxidant properties [1].  In oral products like Osmist, tocopheryl acetate acts as a preservative [1, 2].                

Now we know those four ingredients – tocopheryl acetate, ethanol, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate – all act as preservatives, let’s take a look at how Osmist actually works to keep your mouth moist.

Natural oils are a great way to combat dry mouth, because, unlike liquids such as water, they can coat your tongue, gums and throat for relatively long periods of time.  Many medical professionals and speech pathologists recommend avocado oil, coconut oil or grapeseed oil as a natural dry mouth treatment.  Osmist uses grapeseed oil because, unlike other oils, it has a clean flavour that doesn’t leave a buttery taste in your mouth.

A tropical fruit like papaya might seem like an odd addition to a dry mouth spray, but it’s there for good reason: papaya contains the enzyme papain, which can help thin out the thick, sticky saliva often produced by dry mouth [3]. 

Finally, peppermint oil acts as a natural breath freshener.  Dry mouth can often lead to chronic bad breath, so a small amount of peppermint oil in Osmist helps combat unpleasant odours and fight off bad-breath anxiety.

How to Use Dry Mouth Sprays

Using dry mouth sprays like Osmist is very simple.

  1. Take the protective cap off your Osmist bottle and point the nozzle into your mouth.
  2. Compress the nozzle with two short, quick pumps – you should feel a mist coating the inside of your mouth.
  3. That’s it!  Put your Osmist bottle back into your pocket or bag, and enjoy relief from a dry mouth for up to three hours.  

Dry Mouth Spray Versus Alternatives

We’ve talked about why dry mouth sprays like Osmist are so effective, so let’s see how they perform against alternative treatments like gums, washes and lozenges.

Dry Mouth Sprays Versus Gum

Sugarless gums are often recommended as a temporary treatment for dry mouth. 

The action of chewing stimulates saliva production; stimulated saliva also has a lower viscosity than unstimulated saliva, meaning it’s thinner and easier to swallow [4, 5].

Unfortunately, many people with dry mouth also suffer from oral health conditions that can prevent them from easily chewing gum.  A chew-free solution, like dry mouth spray, is often safer and less painful. 

Gum can also be ineffective in certain social situations.  During business meetings, for example, chewing gum might not be appropriate; scenarios involving food and drink also make chewing gum awkward.  Two quick pumps of a spray like Osmist before a meeting or meal is a much simpler solution.

Finally, chewing gum can’t stimulate saliva if your salivary glands aren’t functional.  This is often the case for people who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancer; because radiation therapy can damage both healthy and tumorous cells, patients can often have their salivary glands irreparably damaged.  To relieve dry mouth, it’s a good idea to use a product that physically rehydrates your mouth, like a dry mouth spray.

Dry Mouth Sprays Versus Oral Washes

Oral washes are another type of dry mouth treatment.  Most speech pathologists and medical professionals recommend using alcohol- and sugar-free washes.

Using an oral wash is a great way to moisten your mouth, rinse out sticky saliva, and combat bad breath.  Unfortunately, dry mouth washes work exactly the same way as normal mouthwash – swish a mouthful of liquid around for about 30 seconds, and then spit it out. 

This makes oral washes impractical for many workplaces, and carrying around a large bottle to restaurants, conferences, and other social settings might earn you some strange looks.

Oral washes can also be dangerous for people with dysphagia (chronic swallowing difficulties that often accompany dry mouth).  People with dysphagia may have poor control of thin fluids in the mouth, which can lead to coughing, choking and aspiration, especially if the wash in question requires gargling.               

Dry Mouth Sprays Versus Lozenges

Dry mouth lozenges are a third alternative to dry mouth sprays, but, like gums and oral washes, lozenges have some serious drawbacks.

While lozenges don’t need to be chewed, many require sucking, which, theoretically activates the same muscles and stimulates saliva flow.  The problem?  Sucking a small object requires good oral control, which many people with dry mouth may not necessarily have.

The other major issue with lozenges is that they only dissolve when wet – people with severe dry mouth may not have enough saliva to quickly or easily break down lozenges, leading to delayed dry mouth management. 

Like gums, lozenges are also impractical for use with food and drinks.      

Dry Mouth Sprays Versus Gels

Dry mouth gels are an effective way to combat dry mouth because they literally coat the inside of the mouth with a layer of moisturising lubricant.  They’re also safe for people with dysphagia and other oral health conditions. 

So why aren’t they more popular? 

The answer is pretty simple: gels aren’t necessarily easy or hygienic to apply, and can feel strange or unpleasant in your mouth.  They’re normally spread over the inside of your cheeks and lips with a clean finger, which isn’t always practical, especially when you’re working in outdoor environments. 

Gels do have one advantage over dry mouth sprays: they’re safer for people who are at risk of aspiration (inhaling food or liquid).  People with dementia or other cognitive disorders can be at risk of inhaling airborne liquid particles, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia. 

Luckily, there’s still a way to use dry mouth sprays when aspiration is a high risk.  If you’re responsible for managing the oral health of an at-risk person, simply spray the Osmist onto a gloved finger and apply the solution to their teeth, gums, the top of their mouth, and the inside of their cheeks.  It’s just as effective as a gel, and can feel much more pleasant.

Do dry mouth sprays work more effectively than other options?

Choosing ways to manage and treat your dry mouth is a decision for you to make in consultation with a healthcare professional. 

Ultimately, though, dry mouth sprays are the best option for many people with dry mouth – they’re efficient, safe, and easy to use.  Gums, oral washes, and lozenges all have distinct disadvantages, particularly in certain social settings or for people with other oral health conditions.

Interested in trying a dry mouth spray for yourself?  Purchase a bottle of Osmist from our online store, or find a stockist near you.

Medical information on Osmist.com.au is merely information and is not the advice of a medical practitioner. This information is general advice and was accurate at the time of publication. For more information about oral care and your individual needs, seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.

References

[1] Fiume, M. M., Berfeld, W. F., Belsito, D. V., Hill, R. A., Klaassen, C. D., Liebler, D. C., Marks Jr, J. G., Shank, R. C., Slaga, T. J., Snyder, P. W., Andersen, F. A. & Heldreth, B. (2018) Safety Assessment of Tocopherols and Tocotrienols as Used in CosmeticsInternational Journal of Toxicology. 37(2), 61S–94S. DOI: 10.1177/1091581818794455

[2] DeHaan, W. H., & Finlay, W. H. (2001) In Vitro Monodisperse Aerosol Deposition in a Mouth and Throat with Six Different Inhalation DevicesJournal of Aerosol Medicine. 14(3), 361–367. DOI: 10.1089/089426801316970321 

[3] Rowe, M., Lawn, C. & Wilson, B. (2018) Effects of Papaya Enzymes on Patients with Dry MouthActa Scientific Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2(12), 16–19.

[4] Gomar-Vercher, S., Simón-Soro, A., Montiel-Company, J. M., Almerich-Silla, J. M. & Mira, A. (2018) Stimulated and unstimulated saliva samples have significantly different bacterial profilesPLoS One. 13(6).  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198021

[5] Gittings, S., Turnbull, N., Henry, B., Roberts, C. J. & Gershkovich, P. (2015) Characterisation of human saliva as a platform for oral dissolution medium development. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. 91, 16–24. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2015.01.007

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