How Dry Mouth Affects Your Oral Health

How Dry Mouth Affects Your Oral Health

Team General Dentistry

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a common condition in which you do not generate an adequate amount of saliva. There are many causes, from certain medications to serious medical conditions. Fortunately, though, dry mouth is generally quite treatable regardless of the underlying cause.

Symptoms of Dry Mouth

If you have ever needed to drink some water before an important test or speaking engagement, you are familiar with the most minor symptoms of dry mouth. Many people have transient dry mouth in response to anxiety. The uncomfortable, sticky feeling generally eases when the anxiety passes.

Chronic dry mouth can cause constant thirst, chapping or cracking of the lips and the corners of the mouth, and a burning or tingling sensation throughout the throat and mouth. Raw tongue, trouble speaking or swallowing, chronic hoarseness, bad breath, and a sore throat are also common symptoms.

Causes of Dry Mouth

There are many different causes of dry mouth. Other than anxiety, medication is one of the most common culprits. Dry mouth is a known side effect of some of the most popular remedies for allergies and colds, asthma, obesity, depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, psychiatric conditions, and many other illnesses. Let your dentist know if you take any medications, as it can make diagnosis far easier.

Dry mouth is also a known side effect of certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. It is a common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation, and it can even be affiliated with wearing dentures.

Dehydration is a common reason for short-term dry mouth. If you have burns, a fever, excess sweating, or ongoing vomiting, you might also experience transient dry mouth.

Smokers, chewing tobacco users, and those who breathe through their mouths are at higher risk for dry mouth. These activities evaporate saliva and irritate the sensitive tissues of the mouth and throat.

Oral Health Concerns from Dry Mouth

Saliva is your first line of defense in maintaining your oral health. It rinses bacteria and food debris from the mouth, starts the digestive process, and neutralizes acids. Over time, chronic dry mouth can affect the balance of bacteria in your mouth, making it more likely for you to develop oral infections such as thrush, and raising your risks for tooth decay and gum disease. It can also make dentures more challenging.

Treating Dry Mouth

Fortunately, dry mouth is relatively easy to treat with a combination of prescription medications and lifestyle changes. If your dry mouth is related to a health condition or medication, it is important to involve your doctor as well. You might be able to change medications or more aggressively treat an underlying illness.

At home, try to stimulate as much saliva production as you can. Chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free hard candy. Sip water throughout the day. Increase the humidity level in your bedroom with a humidifier or a vaporizer. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. Brush your teeth twice per day with fluoridated toothpaste to minimize damage to your teeth and gums.

Your dentist can prescribe an oral rinse to increase the overall amount of moisture in your mouth. Prescription drugs are also available to stimulate the production of saliva.

Ready to Get Started?

If you would like to learn more or start your journey to dental health, please contact Dental Associates, LLP, at 860-677-8666 to schedule an appointment.