If you suffer from dry mouth, you are not unaware of the challenges it can cause in your daily life. Did you know that dry mouth also has ramifications for the health of your teeth as well? Although some symptoms can’t be avoided altogether, here you will learn what causes dry mouth, how it can affect the health of your teeth and mouth, and also how to combat against the effects of dry mouth for the best oral health possible.
Causes of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can be caused by a number of health issues, including the following:
- As a side effect of a medication: Some medications cause dry mouth as a side effect of their use. Sometimes an alternate medication can be prescribed if the issue is severe enough.
- Dehydration: If you are not drinking enough water daily, you can experience dry mouth as a result, as the body does not have enough fluids to create the optimal amount of saliva.
- Tobacco use: Tobacco use slows down the rate at which your mouth produces saliva, leading to dry mouth symptoms.
- Nerve damage: Nerve damage as a result of a surgery or an injury can lead to dry mouth.
- Mouth breathing: Breathing primarily through one’s mouth can cause the saliva in the mouth to evaporate, leading to dry mouth symptoms.
- Infection/Disease: Some particular diseases or infections cause dry mouth, such as Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Strokes, Anemia, and Cystic Fibrosis.
- Stress or Anxiety: Significant amounts of stress and anxiety can lead to dysfunction of bodily symptoms, including saliva production in the mouth.
How can Dry Mouth Affect your Teeth?
The saliva in our mouths serves an important purpose, as it helps to wash away food debris and reduce the amount of plaque on our teeth. A chronic depletion of saliva, or dry mouth, can lead to gum disease as well as severe tooth decay. One study reveals that 30% of all tooth decay (particularly in older adults) is due to dry mouth.
In addition to tooth decay and gum disease, dry mouth can also cause the following health issues when left untreated:
- Problems with chewing and swallowing food
- Difficulty wearing dentures
- Dry nasal/sinus passages
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Oral fungal infections
These symptoms are unpleasant and yet can often be avoided simply by employing strategies to fight against dry mouth and give your saliva glands a helpful boost.
How to Fight Against Dry Mouth
There are many ways to fight against the symptoms of dry mouth and to help your saliva glands in their effort to produce enough saliva to improve your oral health.
To start, we as your dental team can prescribe medications that can help with dry mouth and increase saliva production. If your symptoms are severe and are causing significant issues within your mouth, this may be a great place to start to address your concerns related to dry mouth.
As well, there are other at-home strategies you can try that may help improve your saliva production:
- Consume plenty of water: As a general rule for water consumption, you should drink half your body weight in ounces every day. If you are not drinking enough water, this is a great place to start.
- Use Gum or Mints: The use of gum or mints can help stimulate the salivary glands in your mouth and, as a result, fight dry mouth. Be sure to stick with sugar free options, however, so as to protect your teeth from the effects of increased sugar on your teeth.
- Minimize Sticky Foods: Consuming foods that stick to your teeth, such as processed crackers, candy, and dried fruits can exacerbate the effects of dry mouth.
- Eat Smaller Bites and Chew Your Food Well: This will give your mouth time to produce enough saliva for the digestion process.
- Brush and Floss Regularly: Keep up a solid regimen of brushing and flossing to keep your mouth clean.
There are also some great dry mouth oral products available over the counter that you may want to consider integrating into your daily oral health routine, such as toothpastes and mouth rinses. Such products may offer a higher level of protection against tooth decay for those suffering from dry mouth. Taking care to prevent dry mouth can help you maintain the health of your teeth for the long run, even amidst more challenging conditions.
We at Cooper Family Dentistry care about your overall oral health and are here to help you succeed in the fight against dry mouth. If you have any concerns about dry mouth and its effect on your overall health, or any other dental question, please call our office so we can help you. To schedule an appointment, call our friendly office staff at 501-982-7547 or, for your convenience, fill out an appointment request.