How Dry Mouth Affects Your Oral Health
Dry mouth is a condition that occurs for a variety of reasons, from medication to dehydration. When you don’t have enough saliva it can make your mouth feel dry, which is not only uncomfortable, but it can cause a variety of oral health problems.
Do you experience frequent dry mouth? If so, you should know about the effect this condition may have on your oral health, and what you can do about it.
What is Dry Mouth?
It is common to feel thirsty from time to time, on a hot day or after exercising. But dry mouth is an actual medical condition that affects some people, characterized by a significant lack of saliva. When the salivary glands are not producing the normal amount of saliva, you may experience a variety of symptoms:
- Dry, sticky feeling in your mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Sore throat
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Cracked lips
- Difficulty swallowing
Causes of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can occur due to a variety of causes:
- Medication- Certain medications can cause dry mouth.
- Age.-As you age it is common to experience a reduction in saliva production.
- Cancer treatment- Chemotherapy has been known to cause dry mouth.
- Nerve damage- Damage to the nerves in your neck or head, which can occur due to stroke, can affect the salivary glands.
- Autoimmune diseases- A variety of autoimmune diseases, such as HIV/AIDS or Sjorgen’s Syndrome can lead to dry mouth.
- Diabetes- High blood sugar due to diabetes can cause your mouth to be unusually dry.
- Tobacco- Smoking or chewing tobacco can make your mouth dry.
- Alcohol- Alcohol causes dehydration that can lead to dry mouth.
Oral Health Problems From Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can lead to a variety of oral health problems, including:
- Tooth decay- When there is not enough saliva in the mouth to naturally rinse the teeth, more plaque develops on the teeth which can result in tooth decay.
- Gum disease- Increased plaque on the teeth due to dry mouth also increases your risk of gum disease. Irritated gums from lack of saliva is another risk factor.
- Mouth sores- It is common for dry mouth to result in sores on the soft tissues of your mouth.
- Fungal infections in the mouth- Fungal infections, such as thrush, are more likely to occur in a dry mouth.
Are There Treatments for Dry Mouth?
If you are experiencing dry mouth you don’t have to live with it. There are treatments for dry mouth that can increase saliva production, such as:
- Drink more water- Staying hydrated is sometimes all that is needed to relieve dry mouth. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and see if your dry mouth improves.
- Change medications- If your dry mouth symptoms began when you started taking a certain medication, ask your doctor if there are any alternatives that have less side effects.
- Use a humidifier- Sleeping with a humidifier next to your bed or keeping one on your desk while you work can help relieve dry mouth.
- Reduce tobacco and alcohol use- If you use tobacco or drink alcohol, try cutting back and see if your dry mouth symptoms improve.
- Saliva substitutes- There are mouth rinses and lozenges that are designed to help your mouth feel more moist when there is a lack of natural saliva.
Talk To Your Dentist About Dry Mouth
If you have chronic dry mouth, your dentist can help in a variety of ways. Dentists can recommend ways to relieve the dryness in your mouth and also prescribe medication. They can also monitor your oral health to ensure that your dry mouth symptoms don’t cause tooth decay and other problems.