Serving areas of Okemos, Lansing, and East Lansing, MI
Dry mouth (or xerostomia, if you’d like to use the fancy clinical term) occurs when a person has a decreased volume of salvia or is living with diminished saliva production. It’s estimated to affect about 10 percent of all people, and those individuals suffer from dry mouth. If you’re one of them, you’re at a higher risk of several oral health threats because saliva is one of the natural ways your teeth protects themselves. Christine Tenaglia, DDS, wants to explain the negative consequences of dry mouth, what you can do to combat it, and how she and the team at Tenaglia Smiles can help.
Why is saliva flow so important?
If you have a low supply of saliva, it can make your mouth feel dry and uncomfortable, or like you have a bad taste in your mouth. Saliva is an important part of the function of your oral health. It keeps your mouth moist. It contains several germ-killing compounds, like lactoferrin and lysozyme, which attack cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. Meanwhile, the natural flow of saliva rinses away this bacteria and small particles of food that may have accumulated on your teeth. Saliva also neutralizes acids in your mouth. This is important because any lingering acids in your mouth can eat away at your enamel—the vital, durable outer layer of your tooth structure that serves as a barrier against cavities. Saliva also can repair minor damage from bacteria, as well as remineralize the small imperfections that form on everyone’s teeth just through normal use.
If you have dry mouth, there are several consequences
The bacteria that cause cavities or can lead to the infection that leads to gum disease are allowed to proliferate your dental enamel. The environment of your mouth becomes more acidic, doing more damage to your tooth enamel. And those imperfections on your teeth don’t replenish themselves as quickly as they should naturally if your saliva flow was the way it should be.
What causes dry mouth?
There can be several different reasons, but some of the common causes of dry mouth include using tobacco use, dehydration, or frequently breathing through the mouth. Dry mouth also can develop as a symptom of an illness or as a side effect of several prescription drugs or cancer treatment.
Some of these causes are easier to address than others. If your dry mouth is caused by dehydration, for example, you can just drink more water and limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Likewise, if tobacco is the culprit of your dry mouth, you can quit or take part in a smoking cessation program.
Finding a solution for some of the other causes of dry mouth require professional help.
If your dry mouth is a side effect of medication, you can talk to your regular medical doctor or consult your dentist. If mouth breathing is the culprit, it can have a host of negative consequences, even raising your risk of sleep apnea and other systemic problems. Mouth breathing should be addressed if this is the cause of your dry mouth.
How can your dentist help treat dry mouth?
The best way to prevent dry mouth is to maintain a regular schedule of check-ups. At each of these appointments at Tenaglia Smiles, you’ll have your teeth cleaned professionally. Dr. Tenaglia also will examine your teeth and mouth. These exams are crucial to identify changes that could be signs of a problem and allow preventive and proactive treatment before any potentially serious damage has been done.
Other ways include:
- Drink more water throughout the day and with meals
- Avoid or limit consumption of alcohol, and caffeine
- Talk to your doctor about your medication side effects
- Talk to your dentist about special oral rinses designed to help combat dry mouth
- Chew sugar-free gum
- Dissolve sugar-free mints or candy in your mouth to stimulate saliva
The most important thing to consider when dealing with chronic dry mouth is to address the problem. Don’t ignore it or expect it to go away. Also, continue practicing good oral hygiene and keep up with regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and checkups.
To learn more about how you can prevent dry mouth or schedule a check-up with Dr. Tenaglia, call the office of Tenaglia Smiles today at (517) 347-6733 if you’re located in the areas of Okemos, Lansing, and East Lansing in Michigan.