Dry mouth may seem to be a minor annoyance on the surface, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that it may have a significant impact on the health of your teeth and gums. When dry mouth is chronic, it can cause gum disease and other serious oral health problems, in addition to the familiar cracked lips and bad breath. Here’s what you need to know if you’re dealing with dry mouth.
Dry Mouth and Your Oral Health
One of the most common symptoms of dry mouth is bad breath. You've probably had that "cotton mouth" feeling and morning breath if you've ever fallen asleep with your mouth open, but you’ll experience these on a regular basis if you have chronic dry mouth.
When your mouth is healthy, saliva works throughout the day to rinse away food particles and bacteria. When there isn't enough saliva in your mouth to accomplish this, food particles and bacteria accumulate, causing halitosis, or bad breath.
Plaque forms on your teeth's surfaces when food and bacteria combine. Then, plaque hardens into calculus if it isn't removed, which is a substance that sticks to the teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. Tooth decay and gum disease are both caused by plaque and tartar, which is how dry mouth can quickly escalate into more serious dental issues.
Gum disease isn't just a problem for the gums, though; if left untreated, it can lead to bone loss in the jaw and even tooth loss. Gum disease can also have negative consequences for your overall health, even increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is why it's important to address dry mouth as soon as possible.
Reasons for Dry Mouth
To treat dry mouth, we need to first understand why it’s occurring. Some underlying causes are simple to fix, while others are more difficult, requiring us to focus on treating your symptoms instead. Dry mouth can be caused by:
- Tobacco use
- Certain medications
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Not drinking enough water
- Mouth breathing caused by allergies or sinus issues
- Autoimmune disorders
- Radiation therapy
If you don't have a clear reason for your dry mouth, you're probably dehydrated. Increasing your water consumption throughout the day should help you feel better.
Remedies for Dry Mouth
Staying hydrated can help alleviate dry mouth, regardless of the cause. We recommend carrying a water bottle with you and drinking from it throughout the day. Coffee, tea, juice, and soda aren't substitutes; the first two might dehydrate you due to the caffeine, and the latter two exacerbate your problems by coating your teeth in sugar every time you drink.
If you can, find out what's causing your dry mouth. While you may not be able to stop taking a prescription drug, you can reduce your alcohol intake and quit smoking. Consult with your doctor if you're breathing through your mouth because you have allergies or chronic sinus problems.
We can recommend a hydrating mouthrinse or even prescribe a medication that boosts saliva production if dry mouth persists. We also recommend getting a physical from your primary care physician to see if there are any other underlying health conditions that are causing your dry mouth.