While most patients regard dry mouth as a minor inconvenience, it can actually have a serious impact on your oral health beyond bad breath and cracked lips. Here’s what you need to know about dry mouth and its effect on your teeth and gums.
Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health
The most common complaint that patients have relating to dry mouth is the bad breath it causes. When the air is dry or you sleep with your mouth open, it’s common to experience bad breath caused by dry mouth, but if you have these symptoms on a daily basis, it’s cause for concern.
In a healthy mouth, saliva works to rinse away bacteria and food debris throughout the day between brushing. If you don’t have enough saliva to perform this function, food particles and bacteria accumulate, which is the cause of bad breath.
Food and bacteria that accumulates on the teeth forms plaque; when plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into a substance called tartar, which can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning. Plaque and tartar can cause both tooth decay and gum disease, leading to serious oral health issues. Gum disease doesn’t just affect the gums—when left untreated, it compromises your teeth and your overall health. This is why it’s important to address dry mouth promptly.
Reasons for Dry Mouth
The first step to treating dry mouth is to identify its underlying cause. Some causes are easy to remedy, while others require us to address the symptoms instead. Common reasons for dry mouth include:
- Alcohol and caffeine intake
- Mouth breathing caused by allergies or sinus issues
- Autoimmune disorders
- Radiation therapy
If there’s no medical explanation for your dry mouth, it’s likely that you’re simply dehydrated and increasing your water intake will improve your symptoms.
Dry Mouth Remedies
Staying hydrated is an effective remedy for dry mouth no matter what the cause. Carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go and sip from it all day long. Juice, soda, and caffeinated beverages are no substitute for water. If you’re in a situation where you can’t bring water with you, sugar-free gum or lozenges can be used to stimulate saliva production.
When possible, address the underlying cause of your dry mouth. If you smoke, stop. If you rinse with an alcohol-based mouthwash, switch to one formulated for dry mouth instead. If you breathe through your mouth because of allergies, work with your doctor to get your allergies under control.
If you continue to have issues with dry mouth, we can prescribe artificial saliva products or a medication to increase saliva production. You may also wish to see your primary care provider for a physical to ensure that there are no underlying health issues causing your symptoms.