Many people suffer from dry mouth and don’t realize it. This is when your mouth’s salivary glands don’t make enough saliva. You many think that dry mouth isn’t a big deal, but it can actually significantly damage your oral health. Less saliva means you can’t neutralize acids in your mouth caused by bacteria. That bacteria, plus food particles that don’t wash away will increase your odds of having gum disease and tooth decay. If you suffer from dry mouth, other problems are soon to follow without treatment. Find out why your saliva is important to your oral health and how you can combat mouth dryness effectively!
If you have ever avoided sharing foods, drinks, chapsticks and more with others because of saliva, that’s probably a good call. Many illnesses are transferred through saliva (such as mono). How? Saliva is full of bacteria, and bacteria tend to stick to other surfaces immediately if there is liquid involved. That is how you can get sick with just one sip of another’s drink. However, not all bacteria in saliva is bad. There are actually very important bacteria in your saliva that is vital for proper digestion and good oral health.
Your body makes saliva through salivary glands located in your tongue and other parts of the mouth. You need that saliva to help dissolve food as you chew so that it is in smaller pieces for the rest of your body to digest. The smaller the pieces, the easier it is for your body to separate out nutrients and compounds that it needs from the waste products it doesn’t need. Not only is saliva needed for digestion, but you also need it if you want healthy teeth.
Your mouth is constantly wet. Why? Your teeth need to have that wetness to carry nutrients and minerals to your teeth. Everyday, foods and drinks strip away minerals from your teeth. This is called “demineralization”. However, foods and drinks also have minerals in them when you eat. Calcium products will have calcium, magnesium, phosphate and more. Those minerals help remineralize your teeth and are carried in your saliva when you eat. People who have dry mouth—or who don’t make enough saliva—will start to have problems with their teeth and oral health in general.
There are several names for dry mouth. The scientific name is “xerostomia”. Your saliva is made up of about 98% water. However, it’s the minerals that saliva carries that help your teeth. Water itself doesn’t generally carry tons of minerals, but saliva does as it pulls those minerals from food and drink. However, a person can’t do that as well if their mouth is chronically dry. Oftentimes, medications can have side effects that dry up your mouth. You may notice that you are getting thirsty more often or that your mouth is always dry. Check with your doctor about medication side effects and if those are causing your problems.
Dry mouth can make it much more difficult for a person to chew up food and have proper digestion. People with a dry mouth condition might start to notice that their gums and teeth have more problems than usual. A person starts to have bad breath because there isn’t enough saliva to wash away food particles. Those particles then stick around in the mouth as they get broken down. If you have bad breath, it is either a sign of dry mouth or another oral health condition such as tooth decay. However dry mouth is not a disease according to the American Dental Association, which is good news for you. Studies show that it is caused by medications such as prescriptions, antihistamines, pain-killers, diuretics, decongestants and more.
If you have recently changed your routine or are taking a new medication, see if you notice a change in your saliva production. People who get dry mouth generally have, well, a dry mouth. They can also get a sore throat from the dryness, burning, hoarseness, dry nasal passages, and may even have trouble speaking or swallowing. So no, you don’t just want to ignore dry mouth problems. One, they are a nuisance; two, they are uncomfortable. Lastly, dry mouth can cause your teeth to decay from lack of minerals and saliva washing decay-causing bacteria away. Luckily, remedies for dry mouth problems are relatively simple.
If your mouth is dry, try drinking more water. If you’re not taking new medications and you only have dry mouth sometimes, you might not be drinking enough water on a regular basis. A dry mouth is a sign of dehydration, so always make sure you are staying hydrated. To increase your saliva production, you can also chew on sugar-free gum. You always want to choose sugar-free gum so that you don’t have extra sugar (the food for plaque) that will decay your teeth. The last thing you want is a greater risk for tooth decay when you have dry mouth, which already puts you at risk.
Sugar-free candies can also stimulate saliva production if you suck on them. If you have a more chronic problem with dryness, we can recommend various oral rinses that can help restore your saliva production. We see problems with dry mouth all the time. Although this problem can be irritating, it is an easy one to remedy. If you are having this problem or other oral health issues, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425 and receive the help you need!