The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia. Xerostomia or dry mouth is not only annoying or uncomfortable but it can actually cause several dental and oral issues. But before we get into all of that let’s talk about the reasons why someone might be experiencing dry mouth.
The number one cause of dry mouth is from simply not drinking enough water. So if you have a dry mouth, drinking more water is the first thing you should try to do to fix it. Now if you only get dry moths every once in a while, that’s okay. But persistent dry mouth symptoms can lead to long-term damage when it comes to your teeth. So if it is chronic like you always have dry mouth, it may be from things like taking certain medications. More than 400 over-the-counter and prescription medications can contribute to oral dryness.
Other things that can cause dry mouth are autoimmune diseases, like Sjogren’s syndrome chemotherapy or radiation, especially to the head and neck area, and mouth breathing. Oftentimes mouth breathing can just be a habit that is correctable. But if it’s not just a habit and you have a hard time breathing through your nose, you really need to talk to your doctor.
The reason why dry mouth is so bad for your teeth is that dry teeth tend to get cavities far quicker than teeth that have saliva around them. Saliva acts as a buffer to help protect your tooth enamel. So without it, you are more prone to cavities. It’s not being protected by the saliva. In addition, dry mouth can also lead to tooth sensitivity and periodontal infections which in turn can give you things like bad breath and mouth ulcers.
How can we prevent this?
I have six things you can do:
- Drink more water. The more water the better. Because water helps lubricate your mouth and gives your body the liquid it needs to turn around and produce more saliva.
- Avoid alcohol including containing mouthwashes. Only use alcohol-free because alcohol is extremely drying.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You can even ask your dentist if they feel you would benefit from a prescription fluoride toothpaste. This helps prevent cavities for those who are cavity prone.
- Use a dry mouth mouthwash or mouth rinse. They are made to help lubricate your mouth and provide long-lasting results. Again remember none of these dry mouth rinses would ever contain alcohol because alcohol has a drying effect.
- Chew on sugar-free gum mints or candy. Anything that helps promote saliva flow is good but be sure it is sugar-free because anything with sugar will do the opposite of what you want. Products that contain xylitol are great. It’s a sugar substitute that is known to help fight plaque in cavities which as we said are more common for those with dry mouth.
- Routinely visit your dental office for professional dental cleanings and be sure to tell your dentist and or dental hygienist if you have been experiencing dry mouth. They will be able to provide you with specific product recommendations because they know your individual mouth.