Dry mouth happens when the mouth produces less saliva than it needs. But is that a big deal?
Yes, because saliva plays an important role in the mouth. First, it digests sugars, right there in the mouth. Second, saliva gives teeth a mineral bath that builds up the enamel and clears away bacteria, sugar and food particles. Third, saliva makes it easy to smile, talk, chew and swallow.
This makes saliva an important part of our oral health. So, what happens when there is not enough of it to perform all its housekeeping functions?
Effects of dry mouth
1. Gum disease and tooth decay
A healthy, hydrated mouth is constantly cleaning away sugars, acids, food particles, bacteria and plaque. But a dry mouth is unable to take care of itself in this way. This leads to an accumulation of harmful bacteria that feed on food particles and sugars to create acid and plaque.
When the mouth lacks adequate amounts of saliva, the accumulation of bacteria, acid and plaque erodes the enamel and damages the gums. In the end, a constantly dry mouth will lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
2. Bad breath
A dry mouth allows bacteria to act on accumulated sugars and foods to produce smelly gases known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSC). These gases cause morning breath and daytime halitosis.
Common causes of dry mouth
Dry mouth can be caused by illness or certain oral habits. The cause of a patient's dry mouth determines how the condition will be treated. Here are common causes of dry mouth:
1. Alcohol and smoking
Cigarette smoke dries out the mouth. Alcohol is known to dehydrate both the mouth and the body, so when a person drinks too much, they will wake up parched the next day. To counter the effects of alcohol, a person should drink a lot of water to stay properly hydrated. Also, alcohol-based mouthwash dries out the mouth and should be avoided.
2. Mouth breathing
A person with breathing difficulties will breathe through their mouth, which will cause it to dry out. If mouth breathing only happens during sleep, a person should change their sleeping position or get orthodontic treatment to clear their airway.
If it happens all the time, a person should get treatment to remove the cause of the mouth breathing.
Some treatments cause dry mouth. Diabetes medication, antihistamines and even chemotherapy can dehydrate the mouth.
Some chronic conditions like lupus, diabetes, Parkinson's disease and even anxiety can cause dry mouth. Treatment or management of these conditions will improve the patient's condition.
Prevention, treatment and management
In certain situations, dry mouth can be eliminated completely, but sometimes, a person has to settle for managing it. The following measures will stop dry mouth from affecting oral health:
- Avoid foods that dehydrate the body, like coffee, sugars, alcohol and foods with high salt content
- Hydrate by drinking lots of water
- When possible, swap out medication that causes dry mouth
- Get orthodontic treatment if the airway is obstructed by jaw misalignment
- Get respiratory diseases or conditions treated or managed
- Snack on fruits and vegetables and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production
- Quit smoking
Dry mouth is easy to deal with
A few proactive measures will make the effects of dry mouth a thing of the past. To get rid of chronic dry mouth, contact one of our dentists today.
Let's get started …
Looking for dry mouth treatments near the 94062 area? Call Roy Dental: Paramita Roy DDS at (650) 200-1178.
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