Having dry mouth is an uncomfortable, often uncontrollable issue that can cause a variety of oral health problems. Not only is it painful and lifestyle-limiting, but it can also lead to serious dental health issues — including tooth decay and gum disease. Below, we’ll explore how dry mouth can affect your teeth and outline steps you can take to help maintain healthy teeth and gums when dealing with temporary or chronic dry mouth.
Saliva and Oral Health
Our mouths produce saliva for a reason — it’s essential for keeping our teeth and gums healthy. Saliva provides lubrication and helps keep our mouths clean and breath fresh.
If your mouth is chronically dry, you may have a condition known as xerostomia, which occurs when the salivary glands don’t make enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. While occasional dry mouth is completely normal, when it occurs chronically or frequently, it can have consequences for our teeth, gums, and overall oral health.
How Dry Mouth Can Affect Your Teeth and Oral Health
When our salivary glands are not producing enough saliva, the health of our teeth can start to suffer. Without proper lubrication from saliva, bacteria can thrive in the mouth and lead to a range of issues, from bad breath to tooth decay and gum disease. Read about some of the most common and serious ways that dry mouth can affect your teeth below.
Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Cavities
One of the most serious effects of dry mouth is an increased risk of tooth decay. When saliva is not present in the mouth, it can no longer perform its natural functions, which include washing away food and bacteria and neutralizing acids. This can lead to an increase in plaque buildup, which can eventually lead to tooth decay.
Causes Bad Breath
One of the most noticeable effects of dry mouth is bad breath, or halitosis. This is because saliva is a natural cleanser, responsible for cleaning the mouth and removing bacteria. When there is not enough saliva, bacteria build up more easily, which can cause bad breath.
Makes It Difficult to Eat and Swallow
As a lubricant, saliva makes it easier to both eat and swallow. It even enhances our ability to taste food. Dry mouth can impair all of these processes, making it difficult to eat, swallow, or fully taste food.
Increases the Risk of Gum Disease
Saliva also helps to keep the gums healthy by washing away bacteria and food particles. Without saliva, the gums are more susceptible to infection and inflammation, which can lead to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases.
Can Lead to Mouth Sores and Oral Thrush
Dry mouth can also lead to painful conditions like mouth sores and oral thrush. This is because saliva helps to keep the mouth moist and prevents irritation. Without enough saliva, the mouth can become dry and cracked, leading to sores.
Oral thrush is a fungal infection that can be caused in part by inadequate saliva production. Oral thrush can cause white patches on the tongue or inside of the cheeks, as well as redness and soreness. If left untreated, oral thrush can spread to other parts of the body such as the esophagus or lungs.
Dry Mouth Causes
Dry mouth can be caused by certain prescription medications, nerve damage, cancer therapy, sleeping habits, recreational drug use (especially methamphetamine), alcohol and tobacco use, the natural process of aging, and a range of other health conditions, from diabetes and stroke to Alzheimer’s and certain autoimmune diseases.
If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist to answer your questions about xerostomia and oral health near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. For exceptional and comprehensive dental care, schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!