As the weather warms, those fun-in-the-sun activities make us thirsty. With summer comes a barrage of TV commercials showing hot, thirsty people downing sodas to quench their thirst. As a dentist, I know how detrimental this is to your smile.
Before you load a cooler full of soft drinks, there are many reasons to choose bottled water instead. Most colas contain caffeine, which actually flush your system rather than moisturize it. And, caffeinated drinks are also drying to oral tissues. Throw in the sugar contained in most colas and you’ve got a recipe for costly dental problems.
Oral dryness is a frequent cause of bad breath and one of the biggest influences in developing gum disease. Even though poor oral hygiene is a key factor when it comes to bacteria overload in the mouth, dry mouth is a common contributor because it has many causes.
Saliva is your mouth’s natural cleansing agent. It aids in the digestive process and serves as a constant rinse that removes food particles from the mouth. This helps to keep bacteria levels under control.
When saliva flow is compromised, oral bacteria are able to reproduce and accumulate at a rapid pace. Factors such as smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine (coffee, colas, chocolate), and some medications can be drying to oral tissues.
Once saliva becomes unable to efficiently rinse the mouth, bacteria can quickly multiply. This is what forms a sticky film you may feel on teeth at the end of the day. This film is a buildup of oral bacteria.
If this film (known as plaque) is not removed daily, it can hardened into a concentrated mass of oral bacteria. This hardened form of bacteria is commonly referred to as tartar, or calculus. Tartar attaches to teeth and eats away at tooth enamel and gum tissues.
While some causes of dry mouth are obvious, others may surprise you. In addition to mouth breathing (which can result from snoring and sinus problems), some illnesses or health conditions can lead to frequent mouth breathing.
People who have Sjogren’s Syndrome or are undergoing treatment for HIV or cancer are more susceptible to dry mouth. Aging is a common factor as our bodies produce less oral moisture in our senior years.
Obviously, good saliva flow is necessary to help in the prevention of gum disease, cavities and even tooth loss. Rather than colas, drink plenty of water during the day. Also, consider using an oral rinse to replenish moisture if your mouth is frequently dry.
It is also important to be proactive when dry mouth becomes an ongoing problem. While oral bacteria can lead to gum disease, cavities and tooth loss, research has also found it is an inflammatory trigger for health problems elsewhere in the body.
Through years of research, the bacteria of gum disease has been linked to serious conditions far beyond the mouth. Studies have found a correlation between this bacteria and heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, pre-term babies, memory loss and even impotency. Obviously, oral bacteria is potent stuff.
If you aren’t worried about oral bacteria, look at it another way. Note how a sticky film can form on teeth in the brief time between brushing in the morning and at night. Now, imagine the damage these bacterial ‘critters’ can do without the continual cleansing action of saliva.
As a common cause for problems that can require expensive and time consuming treament, simple measures can help you avoid the damage of oral bacteria. Let’s work together to avoid the problems that come from dry mouth.
If you feel your mouth is occasionally dry during the day or struggle with factors that contribute to dry mouth, call 1-866-9-Smiles for an exam. Preventing problems in the first place is the best way to save both time and money!