Dealing With Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a common problem, experienced by nearly everyone at one point or another. Although most instances of dry mouth do not last long, prolonged or reoccurring cases can take a negative toll on one’s dental health. In fact, it may play a significant role in the formation of decay and disease, ultimately contributing to serious problems in teeth and gums. If you experience frequent or ongoing dry mouth, please take note of the potential dangers associated with this condition and the available treatment for it, as provided by our Bloomington dental office.
The Risks of Dry Mouth
Saliva provides a natural boost to our dental hygiene. Throughout the day, saliva helps clean teeth and gums by rinsing away bacteria and food particles. Therefore, when salivation is decreased, teeth and gums are exposed to a greater amount of bacteria for longer periods of time. The effects are similar to neglected dental hygiene: plaque builds up, and dental problems ensue. Specifically, people who suffer from dry mouth are in greater danger of the following:
- Bad breath: When bacteria are left uninterrupted to feed and spread in the mouth, they release unpleasant odors. This is primarily why “morning breath” occurs, as salivary production slows during sleep.
- Gum disease: One of the most common risks of dry mouth is gingivitis. The formation of plaque along gums is far more likely without the cleansing effects of saliva, resulting in inflammation and the potential spread of infection deeper into gum tissue.
- Tooth decay: Bacteria that are allowed to grow and spread on teeth are more likely to result in decay. This is particularly true near the gum line, where saliva is most beneficial.
- Fungal infection: Patients will dry mouth are more likely to develop thrush, a fungal infection that results in white spots and soreness on the lips and inside of the mouth.
- Dental abscess: Dry mouth encourages tooth decay near the roots of teeth and behind the gum line. If cavities develop in this location, they may also result in an abscess within the gum or bone.
If disease or decay is allowed to spread, restorative treatment will be necessary. For early stages of decay, a filling or similar restoration is often adequate. If decay spreads to the roots of teeth, patients may be in danger of tooth loss. Depending on the degree of decay, root canal treatment or dental implants may be recommended.
Treating the Cause of Dry Mouth
Most often, dry mouth is a symptom of another underlying problem. Therefore, the best way to treat it is by fixing whatever is causing it. Any of the following conditions may be a direct cause of dry mouth or at least a contributing factor:
- Exercise or overexertion
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants
- Diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's
- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer
- Nerve damage in the head or neck from injury
By consulting your cosmetic dentist, you can identify which factors are most likely responsible for your dry mouth. More importantly, your dentist can recommend a method of treatment or at least a suitable way of compensating for the effects of dry mouth.
Dealing with Dry Mouth
Until you can eliminate the cause of dry mouth, there are a few things you can do to offset its risks. First and foremost, be especially diligent in your hygiene. Brush twice and day and floss daily, as your mouth will be particularly susceptible to bacteria. It may also be wise to use mouthwash as an extra preventative measure. Likewise, stay as hydrated as possible. Water can be a good substitute for saliva, and is even more important while eating.
To promote salivary flow, try chewing on sugarless gum or sucking on a sugarless hard candy. Anything with a strong flavor, such as mint or cinnamon, will be doubly helpful.
On the other hand, avoid foods and drinks that may discourage salivation. Salty, sugary, and dry foods (e.g., crackers, cookies, dried fruit) are likely to soak up whatever saliva is present, while caffeinated and alcoholic drinks will decrease bodily fluids.
Schedule an Appointment
If you suffer from dry mouth, let us help you discern the cause and find appropriate treatment for it. Contact us for additional information about our services and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chrisman or Dr. Wyse.