Protecting Oral Health: Dry Mouth Causes and Treatments
Saliva plays a vital role to oral health by washing away food debris and neutralizing acids. Reduced saliva production puts dry mouth sufferers are at increased risk of tooth decay, oral infections, and other oral health problems. Fortunately, dry mouth is treatable and damaged teeth can be repaired with restorative dentistry treatments. Freehold dentist Dennis G. Sternberg offers relief from dry mouth with the following tips.
The Causes of Dry Mouth
Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a condition in which insufficient saliva is produced. The symptoms of dry mouth are varied. Some may have difficulty swallowing foods while others may feel constantly thirsty. A dry feeling of the mouth and tongue, mouth sores, split corners of the mouth, and cracked lips are also possible symptoms. Dry mouth can be a result of a medical condition or even environmental conditions. Some causes of dry mouth include:
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can leave the body dehydrated, which can cause saliva production to decrease.
- Damaged or removed salivary glands: Some people are born with impaired salivary glands, while others may have needed them removed for medical reasons. Whatever the case, damaged or removed salivary glands will result in dry mouth.
- Tobacco use: Any form of tobacco use can cause dry mouth.
- Oral infection or disease: Oral infections or disease can damage the salivary glands, leading to reduced saliva.
- Medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth.
- Dry air: Breathing dry air can dry out both the nasal passage and the mouth, causing dry mouth symptoms.
The Risks of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth may seem like a minor irritation, but it can actually lead to real dental problems. Saliva washes away bacteria, helping to keep the teeth and gums healthy. It also includes enzymes, which aid in digestion, and proteins, which help strengthen the teeth. Dry mouth can lead to oral health problems like:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Oral discomfort
- Tooth loss from dental decay or gum disease
- Dental discoloration
- Mouth sores
- Oral infection
- Difficulty tasting foods
- Chronic sore throat and dry nasal passages
- Cosmetic issues
Dry Mouth Treatments
These tips can help relieve the symptoms of dry mouth:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help ensure your body has enough fluids to function properly.
- Use a vaporizer: A vaporizer can help put moisture back in the air to reduce dry mouth caused by breathing in dry air.
- Avoid starchy foods: Starchy foods can reduce saliva production so avoid foods like potatoes and breads.
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy: Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy can help stimulate saliva production.
- Use an over-the-counter saliva substitute: Over-the-counter saliva substitutes are available and can help relieve dry mouth symptoms.
- Consult your physician if you're taking medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth. Consult your physician if you suspect your medication is causing dry mouth.