Dry Mouth and Dental Decay: What’s the Link?
Do you ever feel parched, like no matter how much water you drink your mouth is always going to feel dry?
This level of dryness – particularly if it’s chronic – is not normal.
That being said, dry mouth is a common condition that is not just annoying, it can be detrimental to your health.
For example, many people that deal with dry mouth also experience an increase in dental decay.
Today, we’ll look at the link between a dry oral cavity and cavities. We’ll also look at some dry mouth solutions that can provide you with some relief!
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Xerostomia (dry mouth) results when your saliva glands don’t produce normal amounts of saliva.
Dry mouth is most often a side effect of certain medications. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer can also slow saliva flow. Medications that can lead to dry mouth include:
- Asthma/lung inhalers
- Medications for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
- Seizure medications
- Certain meds for heart disease and high blood pressure
During menopause, women experience hormonal changes that can lead to not only vaginal dryness, but also dry mouth.
In some cases, dry mouth can also be caused by a condition that has a direct impact on the salivary glands.
Additionally, xerostomia can be a side effect of several diseases and conditions.
- Cystic fibrosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Symptoms of dry mouth:
- A sticky feeling in your mouth
- Thick or stringy saliva
- Bad breath
- Dry throat
- Sore throat
- Hoarse voice
- Dry tongue
- Changes in tongue appearance (grooved)
- Change in ability to taste
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Difficulty keeping dentures in place
- Wearing dentures is uncomfortable or even painful
Is There a Link Between Dry Mouth and Dental Decay?
Unfortunately, developing cavities is a common side effect of xerostomia.
Saliva is our teeth’s natural barrier, protecting them from bacterial growth and neutralizing the acids produced by oral bacteria. Saliva also helps wash away food particles.
When you have chronic dry mouth, your teeth are more susceptible to erosion from acids. The teeth are weakened, and decay can develop.
Decay Is Not the Only Worrisome Dental Issue That Can Develop
Optimal salivary flow is essential to the overall health of the oral cavity. Any condition that causes that flow to slow or cease completely can cause major damage. In addition to dental decay, you could be at higher risk of gum disease and oral infections such as thrush.
Another reason saliva is important is because it aids with digestion three ways.
For one thing, it enhances a person’s ability to taste food. If something tastes good, you’re more likely to eat it. However, if everything tastes like cardboard, you’re not as enthusiastic when it comes time to eat. Some people will even forget to eat or avoid it because foods don’t taste as good. This can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and illness.
Second, you need saliva to fully chew your food and easily swallow it. And finally, saliva contains enzymes which aid digestion.
Dry Mouth Solutions You Can Try at Home
To keep your teeth, gums, and body healthy and in good working order, you need to treat dry mouth as soon as you notice it.
For occasional dry mouth, you might simply need to reduce stress (or find better ways to cope with it) and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Most people aren’t getting as much water as they need each day. Try drinking at least the recommended 64 ounces of water per day and see if that helps.
If that doesn’t help, you could be dealing with chronic xerostomia, which requires increased action. Following are some at-home dry mouth solutions to try.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Change to non-alcohol-based mouthwash
- Suck on some sugar-free lozenges
- Try oral rinses that stimulate saliva flow (like Biotene)
- Try oil pulling every day (This is an Ayurvedic medicine method using coconut or sesame oil. You hold and swish the oil around your mouth for 10-15 minutes without swallowing. The oil is supposed to help draw out impurities while coating the mouth and soothing any irritated areas. Limited studies have been done on oil pulling, but recent evidence suggests that it is an effective adjunct to other preventative hygiene measures, such as brushing and flossing.)
- Chew sugar-free Xylitol gum (A 2017 study shows that Xylitol can help prevent cavities, as can the action of chewing gum (as it removes food particles after eating). Chewing gum can also stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva.)
Can a Cerritos Dentist Treat Dry Mouth?
If you’ve tried at-home dry mouth solutions without success, it’s time to talk with your dentist.
The first thing your dentist will do is consult with you about what’s causing your dry mouth. Determining the cause of the problem can help them find the best possible solution.
Next, they may prescribe an FDA-approved saliva substitute. Artificial saliva doesn’t stimulate the salivary glands. Instead, it moisturizes and lubricates the mouth. Your dentist can prescribe an artificial saliva product in a form that you prefer, including dissolvable tablets, rinses, gels, swabs, and sprays.
Your general physician may also be able to help.
If your xerostomia is caused by medical conditions or treatments, there are several prescription drugs that can relieve subsequent dry mouth symptoms.
Can Seeing a Dentist Regularly Really Help Prevent Cavities?
Seeing a Cerritos dentist regularly is vital if you have chronic dry mouth.
Preventative dentistry can help reduce your risk of dental decay. If you do have cavities, it’s best if they’re caught early. Small dental fillings are preferable to large ones as they don’t harm the structure and integrity of the tooth as much. Plus, excavating shallow decay results in less post-filling tooth sensitivity than does deeper decay. In some cases, you might not even need anesthesia for the procedure, which will cut down treatment time significantly.
Cleaning the plaque and tartar off the teeth and from below the gumline will also help prevent gum disease and keep the other soft tissues of the mouth healthy.
Work with Your Dentist to Control the Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is an uncomfortable, frustrating condition. It’s one that can lead to other complications, like bad breath and dental decay.
Fortunately, there are ways to stimulate saliva flow and reduce your risk of developing these conditions. Rest assured, if you do have dental damage caused by dry mouth, we can perform procedures to restore your teeth, so they look and feel great.
We are a team. Together, we can protect your dentition and keep your teeth and gums healthy and functioning optimally.
Are you suffering from chronic dry mouth? We can help! Contact our team to schedule a consultation.