Is Dry Mouth Harming Your Teeth?

What Causes it & How to Treat it!

Did you know that your spit plays an important role in the health of your teeth and your overall health? It does.

Your saliva, aka spit, helps you digest your food, and it’s antibacterial properties protect your teeth from tooth decay. How? Your saliva flushes away food remnants and other debris that remain in your mouth that build the bacteria, and it also helps neutralize the acids produced from these bacteria. Not only does your saliva fight off cavities, it contains calcium + phosphate which remineralize your teeth. This strengthens your tooth’s enamel, making it less susceptible to breaks and erosion. But what happens when you have dry mouth?

Dry Mouth Harms Your Oral HealthSaliva works hard to keep your mouth clean. In fact, when it’s flowing properly, the average person produces about 24 ounces of it every day. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from a saliva drought called “Dry Mouth”, also referred to as Xerostomia in the dental field. About 30% of Americans have chronic dry mouth, a condition where you can’t produce the proper amount of saliva to protect the health of their teeth.

Dental Problems

So, what kinds of dental issues does dry mouth cause? When chronic dry mouth gets in the way of letting your saliva do its job bad things can happen to your oral health.

  • Tooth Decay & More Cavities
  • Bad Breath
  • Gum Disease
  • Tooth Enamel Erosion

What Causes Dry Mouth

Most of us have experienced dry mouth at some point. Anxiety and stress can trigger it, but there are many other factors that can diminish your saliva flow and lead to having on-going dry mouth. When you have chronic dry mouth, it’s a nuisance for your comfort, and your teeth. Here are some common causes of dry mouth.

  • Medications– About 80% of commonly prescribed medications can promote dry mouth. Antihistamines or decongestants for allergies; some pain medications, Antidepressants or anti-anxiety; blood pressure drugs; and the list goes on.
  • You’re a Mouth Breather – Sleep with your mouth open? If you do this causes dry mouth, and allows acids to erode the enamel of your teeth while you sleep. According to a recent survey, about 61% of Americans breathe through their mouths when they sleep. Potential causes of mouth breathing? It can be due to a habit, congestion, or having a sleeping disorder like sleep apnea, which repeatedly stops and starts your breathing throughout your sleep, and can also cause chronic snoring.
  • Health Issues – Various health issues can cause chronic dry mouth, such as Diabetes, Parkinson’s, or Acid Reflux.
  • Alcohol, Tobacco & Recreational Drugs – Smoking and drinking aggravate your dry mouth symptoms, as can smoking cannabis, which can also increase your risk for gum disease.
  • Dehydration  –  Are you staying hydrated? The more dry your mouth becomes, the less saliva you have. You may need to drink more water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and give your saliva a fighting chance.
  • Cancer Therapy – If you’re goin through cancer treatment, chemotherapy drugs can definitely affect your saliva flow and promote dry mouth.

Treating Dry Mouth

Are you having on-going dry mouth issues? Please let us know. Dr. Gilbert can help diagnose the cause of your dry mouth and develop a plan to help you boost your saliva flow. It may take a combination of prescribing gels, or rinses, treatments, more diligent oral hygiene and a few tips to reduce your dry mouth symptoms.

  • Brush Your Teeth After Every Meal – When you have dry mouth, you need to be more diligent with your toothbrush. Use toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush after each meal and snack. Tip: An electric toothbrush will help ensure that you’re brushing correctly, for the correct amount of time.
  • Get an In-Office Fluoride Rinse – If you’re getting more cavities than normal, or you’re now more at risk for getting them, you might also benefit from a fluoride rinse during your office visit.
  • Keep Your Mouth Moist – Try to drink more water throughout the day. Rinse your mouth with water when you can around meals, or use an over-the-counter moisturizing spray whenever your mouth feels dry. NOTE:  We can now prescribe & give you 3M™ Xerostomia Relief Spray at our office.
  • Try Anti Cavity Oral Rinses – An over-the-counter alcohol-free mouthwash such as Biotene Oral Rinse helps specifically for dry mouth, and also removes cavity causing plaque. Another antimicrobial rinse called Closys, originally made for chemo patients, works well too.
  • Use a Prescription Toothpaste – A prescription strength toothpaste we like is PreviDent 5000. It can help reduce your dry mouth symptoms and give you a little extra support from cavities.  Note: Request a prescription when you visit. Since pharmacies only carry regular PreviDent toothpaste, we can prescribe it and give it to you here!
  • Breathe More Through Your Nose – Throughout the day, and when you sleep, try to breathe more through your nose rather than through your mouth. This might be easier said than done, but if you breathe through your mouth because it’s a habit, there are some tips we can give you to breathe through your nose, especially during your sleep.
  • Stay On Top of Your Teeth Cleanings – Don’t miss your routine teeth cleanings. If you suffer from dry mouth, you have to fight extra hard to keep off the plaque. Getting your teeth cleaned every 6 months will help reinforce your daily oral hygiene efforts and scrub off any built up plaque!

Suffering from chronic dry mouth is not fun.  It disrupts your life, and leads to long-term dental or health issues. Living with dry mouth doesn’t need to be a way of life. We can help reduce the symptoms and protect your teeth. Please call us at (425) 957-4700 to schedule an appointment or contact us online.

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