Dry mouth can be very uncomfortable for people. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, can cause patients to have difficulty speaking, tasting, chewing and swallowing. It can also cause bad breath. What many people don’t know is that dry mouth can significantly contribute to a rise in cavities, demineralization of teeth, teeth sensitivity and oral infections.
What causes dry mouth? A reduction in salivary flow can be a result of an autoimmune disease, chemotherapy or radiation, or more commonly a side effect of a medication. Other causes may be uncontrolled diabetes or hormonal changes. At night, salivary flow naturally decreases which is why the symptoms are exacerbated while you’re sleeping. Mouth breathing at night makes it even worse!
Why is saliva so important? We all can understand that saliva keeps your mouth moist and allows you to chew, swallow and digest your food. What we may not realize is the importance of saliva in cleansing your mouth and maintaining a neutral pH. Dry mouth can create an acidic environment which allows for your enamel to demineralize and tooth decay to develop and grow. Xerostomia can also allow for the development of fungal or bacterial infections.
What can you do about it? A thorough exam and medical history background can help identify the cause of the dry mouth. Next would be to discuss tips on relieving it. Below are a few:
-Drink plenty of water, including leaving a glass or bottle of water on your bedside table. Avoid alcohol and sugary soda and juice. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco are irritants. Use an alcohol free mouth rinse.
-Breathe through your nose! If you find this difficult to do at night, try using a nose strip to open your nasal passages.
-Chew sugar-free gum containing Xylitol or suck on sugar free candy.
-Frequent dental exams to help identify the cause and check for developing cavities and infections, as well as evaluate your gums.
-Fluoride, Fluoride, Fluoride! Using prescription strength fluoride toothpaste at home and fluoride treatments at your hygiene visits will help tremendously in the prevention of tooth decay.
-Use a humidifier at night.
If you are experiencing dry mouth we encourage you to schedule a visit and share your concerns with us. You can also share this information with a family member or friend who is complaining of dry mouth. Your oral and overall health is important to us!