Did you know that saliva is one of the body’s natural defenses used to wash away food and acid-producing bacteria in the mouth? Well, now you do. Normally, a proper oral hygiene routine paired with regular dental checkups and a well-balanced diet are enough to keep a healthy mouth.
But what if your salivary glands aren’t producing as much saliva as you need? Aside from the lack of daily comfort in your mouth, overtime, acid can corrode your teeth leading to tooth decay and gum disease because the bacteria that cause both thrive in a dry environment.
Here at Cooley DDS, we love to see you smile. We know dry mouth can cause poor oral health, which can lead to a number of conditions, including the lack of confidence you need to keep smiling. We’ve put together this guide, so you can protect smile by learning more.
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition that refers to a decreased volume of saliva in the mouth.
What causes dry mouth?
There are a number of causes of dry mouth, but most often, it is caused as a side effect of medications. Hundreds of medications produce this side effect, but among the more likely types are those used to treat high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Other types of medicines are diuretics, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, and decongestants.
Other causes of dry mouth include removal of salivary glands, radiation treatments, diabetes, eating disorders, sleep apnea, hormonal imbalances, stress, anxiety, dehydration, smoking, and tobacco use.
How common is dry mouth?
Studies show that dry mouth affects nearly 10% of all people and tends to be more prevalent in women than men. A large number of those affected are the elderly and those taking regular medications.
What are the signs and symptoms of dry mouth?
If you’re not producing enough saliva, you may exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:
- Dry/sticky feeling in the mouth and/or throat
- Frequent thirst
- Difficulty speaking, chewing, and/or swallowing
- Diminished sense of taste
- Chapped lips
- Dry eyes
- Pale gums
- Bad breath
- Persistent cough
- White tongue
- Mouth sores
- Burning sensation in mouth/tongue/throat
- Problems wearing dentures
- Bleeding gums
- Tooth decay
How can you remedy dry mouth?
- Drink Water
Since dry mouth can occur from dehydration, a simple solution is to drink more water. Water also helps to swish away food particles left in the mouth after eating. The United States is one of the few countries that add fluoride to its water. Fluoride helps make teeth resilient to acid attacks that cause cavities.
- Sugar-free gum or candies
The act of chewing or sucking stimulates saliva production. If you chew gum or suck on a mint or candy for twenty minutes after a meal, the increased saliva will help wash away plaque from your teeth. Additionally, it can provide better breath. But be sure to choose sugar-free because sugar can lead to tooth decay.
- Drink less caffeine
Most people don’t want to hear they should drink less caffeine because they love their morning coffee or tea. However, this doesn’t mean you have to give it up. You just need to decrease your daily intake amount.
- Breath through your nose
Breathing out of your mouth can dry it up. Try to focus on breathing through your nose when you are in a more relaxed state such as working while seated or resting on the couch or bed. Nasal problems can make it hard to breathe through your nose, so you may need to see a doctor if this is the case. Additionally, you can place a humidifier in the room while you sleep in order to breathe moisture-treated air.
- Stop Smoking
Since one of the side effects of smoking is decreased saliva production, smoking less or stopping altogether is a remedy. Talk to your dentist about ways to get on the path to quitting.
- Drink less alcohol/use alcohol free-mouthwash
The tannins in red wine and other beverages can pull moisture from your mouth. Most mouthwashes contain alcohol, specifically ethanol, so find a brand those doesn’t. Alcohol-free mouthwash is also beneficial for those who have a history of alcohol use. There are a number of alcohol-free mouthwashes on the market that can freshen breath, whiten teeth, and fight tooth decay without drying your mouth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste
Since having dry mouth puts you at risk for tooth decay, be sure to regularly brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste. This will keep your enamel strong and help fight acid-producing bacteria.
Because dry mouth can lead to gum disease, it’s especially important to clean the areas between your teeth and around your gumline.
All your orthodontic needs with Cooley DDS
We hope this guide helped you learn more about dry mouth and ways to help prevent it. Here at Cooley DDS, we understand that dry mouth is an uncomfortable condition. We also know it can lead to tooth decay and gum disease when left untreated. If you have this condition, please talk to us to learn more about causes and treatment options.
We invite you to tour our state-of-the-art Germantown office and enjoy our personalized dental service, all in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. When you visit us, you become part of a caring dental family. Our highly trained, professional staff is committed to listening to your needs and providing care that works for your lifestyle. Call us today for a free consultation. We hope to see you soon!