About 4 million Americans suffer from dry mouth at any given time. It is uncomfortable and irritating for most, but it can have a serious effect on your dental health. As I have discussed in several of my postings, saliva has an important protective benefit for your teeth and mouth. Saliva, when it flows normally, protects your teeth by washing away bacteria and redepositing enamel enhancing minerals such as calcium back into your teeth, which undoes some of the initial damage or wear done to your teeth by every day living. However, many people have underactive salivary glands due to a number of factors: diet, medical issues, medicine and drugs taken, alcohol and tobacco use, and hydration.
When there is a deficit of saliva, your teeth become more prone to decay and gums become more prone to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Saliva is very important to protect your gums and teeth from the damaging effects of bacteria, acid, and sugars. Many Americans use drugs that can cause dry mouth, including painkillers, antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants. Dry mouth, however, can be alleviated by drinking plenty of water and chewing sugarless gum, the latter of which promotes salivary production, which helps dilute the acidity of the mouth and protects your teeth and gums.
It is also important to examine any smoking or alcohol use you may engage in, as these do have an effect on salivary production. You should also look at any health issues you may have that may be causing dry mouth, including diabetes and other systemic diseases.
To alleviate dry mouth and protect your dental health, try the following:
- Chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar-free candies
- Drink plenty of water. Other drinks such as soda, tea, coffee, and anything containing caffeine can dehydrate you due to diuretic properties and can stain your teeth
- Reduce or cease tobacco and alcohol use.
- If there is a systemic issue, consider talk to your dentist or general health practitioner. There are a number of over the counter and prescription options for people with dry mouth.
- Use an alcohol free mouthwash, or try a fluoride rinse.
- Moisten dry foods before eating them.
- If you have a metabolic disease or diabetes, make sure they are well managed.
It is also very important to see your dentist at least twice a year to ensure that there are no oral health problems related to dry mouth. If you have any questions relating to dry mouth, please ask your doctor or dentist. While a common, annoying, and minor condition for most people, dry mouth can have serious negative health implications for your dental health. It is important to address it and find the underlying causes so that you can do the most to protect your teeth.