Suffering from a dry mouth leaves a very undesirable feeling for most people. It’s common to have a dry mouth after recovering from the common cold, after exercising, or during the wintertime when the air tends to be drier. But to repeatedly suffer from dry mouth due to medical conditions, stress or medications can be a hindrance to your daily life and can lead to some serious dental health problems. So what should you do if you experience dry mouth on a regular basis?
Find the Cause Of Your Dry Mouth
There are different levels of dry mouth, or xerostomia as it’s referred to by professionals, and they can range from temporary to continual. Temporary dry mouth from speaking presentations and exercise can be easily fixed with a bit of hydration. But then there are certain levels of continual dry mouth that have external causes, such as medication and dental appliances, or as a side effect of cancer treatments, nutritional deficiencies and autoimmune disorders. Before seeking dental care, a patient should always speak with their family doctor to determine the cause of their dry mouth to see if there is something larger at play.
Sometimes, the external causes of dry mouth are unavoidable, so management of the problem is the next best alternative. At Stonegate Dental, we help our patients find ways to make dry mouth more manageable with a variety of re-hydrating techniques. But for this blog, let’s begin with a bit of background education on why dry mouth poses an oral health risk.
Is Having Dry Mouth Syndrome The Same As Walking Up With A Dry Mouth?
Having a dry mouth upon waking up may not mean you have dry mouth syndrome. Sometimes having a dry mouth in the morning can be because of a cold, because of snoring, or even as a result of stress from the day. If you find that you’re waking up with heavy tongue or like you’re waking with a mouthful of cotton balls, it’s time to up your hydration levels. Drinking water at night and as soon as you wake up can help counteract dry mouth. But if you find that you’re dealing with dry mouth in the mornings and throughout the day, it’s a sign of a much larger problem.
Why Does Dry Mouth Pose Dental Health Problems?
When your mouth gets dry, the production of saliva decreases. Saliva is crucial to keeping your mouth comfortable, your digestive system flowing, and plays a large part in your overall dental health. Saliva needs to be present in order for food particles to be pushed down the digestive system, but also to help break down plaque and bacteria that build up on teeth. When teeth are left with food particles and a patient suffers from dry mouth, it creates a sticky and stinky situation.
Once the base of a tooth is covered in plaque, it can irritate the gums, and the enamel on the base of teeth begins to wear away. Over time, if your mouth lacks saliva, it can damage your teeth in the long run, especially because they need saliva to repair and remineralize the dentin and enamel.
On a more concerning note, patients with continual dry mouth can also develop oral candidiasis, known as oral thrush, which is a fungus that builds up in the mouth. This can mean additional medications needed to treat the infection and a heightened level of discomfort.
Keeping Your Saliva in Check
It’s always a good idea to sip water throughout the day, whether or not you suffer from dry mouth, but becomes extremely important if you do! Drinking water helps hydrate your mouth and your teeth and can help break down plaque. We’d also suggest avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugary juices as they can actually dehydrate you more and make your teeth more susceptible to decay. If you can, it’s also a good idea to avoid salty and dry foods as they tend to dry out the mouth as well.
And it probably goes without saying, but it’s definitely not advisable to smoke! Besides regular tooth decay and cancer, smoking cigarettes has been shown to dry out the mouth.
Help Your Mouth Stay Hydrated
If you want to help your mouth keep hydrated, it’s best to drink water and stimulate your salivary glands with sugarless gum and sugarless hard candies. Going sugar-free on these sweets is important because having excess sugar can actually make plaque build up and your mouth feeling even more uncomfortable than before.
There are recommendations that our Dentist office can make for those who find that they need more saliva flow, such as finding an acupuncturist who can target the saliva nerves and stimulate the gland production. Dr. Wat may also prescribe a toothpaste or mouthwash that is specifically meant for treating dry mouth. She may also ask you to have a talk with your doctor about your health and medications, to see if there are any changes that can be made with medications whose side effects include dry mouth. If you’d prefer a natural approach, some patients find having a humidifier in their bedroom or around the home adds extra moisture into the air, providing hydration to the mouth.
Also be sure to keep up your regular oral hygiene routine by flossing and brushing your teeth twice per day. This helps remove excess plaque and bacteria and greatly reduces the risk of gum disease.
Understanding Your Dry Mouth
Dealing with dry mouth can be frustrating and embarrassing for patients. Our Dentist Office, works with patients of all ages on this oral hygiene problem and can provide solutions that work for your smile and lifestyle. To book an appointment and explore the options on treating your dry mouth, please don’t hesitate to contact us through our online form or through a phonecall.