Dry mouth might seem like it’s just a minor inconvenience, but if you suffer from chronic dry mouth, it can have a significant impact on your teeth and gums. It’s not just about cracked lips and bad breath—it can lead to gum disease and other series issues. Here’s how dry mouth affects your oral health.
Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health
Most people who have dry mouth are concerned about the bad breath it causes, which is one of its most common symptoms. If you’ve ever fallen asleep with your mouth open, you’ve probably had that “cotton mouth” feeling and morning breath when you woke up. With chronic dry mouth, you experience these on a daily basis.
When your mouth is healthy, your saliva works to wash away food debris and bacteria throughout the day. If there’s a lack of saliva in your mouth, these food particles and bacteria collect, leading to halitosis, or bad breath.
The combination of food and bacteria forms plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. When plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into calculus, a stickier substance that adheres to the teeth and can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning. Plaque and tartar cause tooth decay and gum disease, which is how dry mouth can easily snowball into more serious dental concerns.
Gum disease isn’t just a disease of the gums—it can lead to bone loss in the jaw and even tooth loss if left untreated. Gum disease can also cause deleterious effects on your overall health. This is why it’s important to treat dry mouth promptly.
Reasons for Dry Mouth
To combat dry mouth, we need to understand its underlying cause. There are some that are easily remedied, while there are others that cannot be resolved, forcing us to address your symptoms instead. Here are some reasons why you might be suffering from dry mouth:
- Smoking habit
- Certain medications
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Mouth breathing caused by allergies or sinus issues
- Autoimmune disorders
- Radiation therapy
If there’s no clear medical reason for your dry mouth, it’s likely that you’re dehydrated. Increasing your water intake throughout the day should relieve your symptoms.
Remedies for Dry Mouth
No matter the cause of your dry mouth, staying well-hydrated can help. We recommend carrying a bottle of water with you and drinking from it all day long. Coffee, tea, juice, and soda are no substitute—the first two can cause dehydration from their caffeine content, and the latter two worsen your problems by bathing your teeth in sugar each time you drink.
If you can, address the underlying cause of your dry mouth. While you might not be able to stop taking a needed medication, you can cut down on alcohol consumption and stop smoking. If you breathe through your mouth due to allergies or chronic sinus problems, see your doctor for a solution.
When dry mouth persists, we can suggest a hydrating mouthrinse or even prescribe a medication that increases saliva production. We also recommend visiting your primary care physician for a physical to determine if there are other underlying health issues causing your dry mouth.