While we might not think about it often, a healthy mouth requires plenty of saliva to help moisten and cleanse our teeth and gums. When your body fails to produce enough saliva to keep the mouth adequately moist, you become for more susceptible to developing the types of infection, decay and fungi saliva usually helps keep a way.
Failing to produce enough saliva leads to the development of dry mouth, a condition that causes the mouth to feel uncomfortable and dry. Even though dry mouth may seem like a minor inconvenience, the condition actually presents a serious threat to your long-term oral health. Fortunately, Dr. Dugger can provide a variety of treatment options designed to help prevent dry mouth and keep you feeling great.
The Causes of Dry Mouth
Eat a handful of Saltines or a few rice crackers and you might start to feel all of the moisture in your mouth slowly dry out. But while the foods we consume can temporarily absorb the moisture in our mouths to cause dry mouth, the condition becomes more serious when caused by an underlying condition that can include:
- Side effect from taking prescription medication. Prescription medications rank as one of the most common causes of dry mouth. Many commonly prescribed medications used to treat a variety of conditions, such as diabetes, anemia, hypertension, arthritis and stroke, can all cause dry mouth as a potential side effect.
- Unless out walking in the desert, dry mouth related to dehydration usually occurs as the result of fever, vomiting, blood loss and excessive sweating.
- Lifestyle habits. Patients who smoke or use chewing tobacco commonly develop persistent dry mouth, as these habits aggravate the mouth, causing it to produce far less saliva than normal.
- Nerve damage. Nerve damage to the head or neck from surgery or an injury may result in the development of dry mouth.
- While not true of every patient, most people will start to produce less saliva as they grow older.
The Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Whether from working out or from playing with kids in the yard on a hot day, most of us have experienced the classic symptoms of dry mouth. When dealing with dry mouth as a more persistent issue, the symptoms to expand to include:
- Mouth feeling dry and sticky
- Persistent thirst
- Oral sores or sores that develop at the corners of the mouth
- A burning sensation in the mouth or on the tongue
- A dry feeling in the throat
- Difficulty speaking, chewing or eating
- Chronic bad breath
Why is Dry Mouth a Big Deal?
So despite feeling a little uncomfortable, why is dry mouth that big a deal you ask? Well, saliva actually plays a more important role in helping to protect your oral health than you might think.
Saliva acts as the body’s natural defense mechanism against the harmful bacteria in the mouth that contributes to the development of tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva also helps to flush food particles that remain in the mouth after eating out of the mouth so they can’t contribute to plaque buildup and decay.
Without saliva around to act as sheriff, these unsavory characters are allowed to hang around in the mouth where they contribute to the development of gum disease, tooth decay and even tooth loss. This is why patients need to produce a healthy amount of saliva to keep their oral health in check.
Treatment of Dry Mouth
Treatment for dry can vary depending on what Dr. Dugger determines is the most likely underlying cause for the condition. If a patient’s dry mouth is caused by a certain medication they take, for example, Dr. Dugger may recommend they talk with their doctor to see if an alternative medication can take its place.
Other issues that cause dry mouth may need other treatment options to correct. Dr. Dugger can provide a better idea of a patient’s treatment options after conducting a thorough examination. However, here are a few helpful suggestions on how to increase saliva flow:
- Drink plenty of water. This may seem simple, but it’s also effective.
- Chew on sugar free gum. Chewing gum helps to stimulate saliva flow. Just make sure to chew sugar free gum as adding more sugar to your diet isn’t great when already more susceptible to the effects of tooth decay.
- Make sure to brush. When your oral health is at its most vulnerable, you need to make sure the basics don’t get skipped.
Don’t let dry mouth ruin an otherwise healthy smile. If you frequently deal with dry mouth, make sure to schedule an exam with Dr. Dugger today.