Hot, parched, arid, dry… words that should not be used to describe the inside of your mouth. However, it doesn’t take much to dry a mouth out, and some of the ways this can occur may surprise you.
First, let’s discuss why a dry mouth is a problem, other than it just feels bad. Saliva is your mouth’s natural cleansing agent. It serves as a rinse that removes food particles from the mouth. Combined with brushing and flossing, good saliva flow helps to keep bacteria levels under control.
When saliva flow is compromised, oral bacteria are able to reproduce and multiply quickly. As bacteria accumulate, a sticky film forms on teeth and gums from this buildup. As bacteria coat the interior of your mouth, bad breath begins.
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.
Oral dryness is one of the biggest influences in developing gum disease. Even though poor oral hygiene is a key factor when it comes to bacteria overload, dry mouth is a common contributor because it has many causes.
Common drying factors include smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine (coffee, colas, chocolate), and side effects of some medications. Other drying causes may surprise you. In addition to mouth breathing (most often from snoring and sinus problems), some illnesses or health conditions can lead to frequent mouth breathing.
Aging is another common factor as our bodies produce less oral moisture in our senior years. People who have Sjogren’s Syndrome or are undergoing treatment for HIV or cancer are more susceptible to dry mouth.
So, how do you avoid having a dry mouth (and the subsequent bad breath and oral health risks associated with it)? First, be committed to a thorough oral hygiene regimen at home. This includes twice daily brushing (at least two minutes per time), daily flossing, limiting caffeine and having 6-month dental cleanings and exams. These visits are designed to remove tartar buildup that has accumulated between visits BEFORE damage can occur.
Rather than reach for a soft drink, choose bottled water instead. Most colas contain caffeine, which actually dehydrate your system rather than moisten it. Along with the sugar contained in most colas, you’ve got a recipe for costly dental problems.
Also, consider using an oral rinse to replenish moisture if your mouth is frequently dry. Certainly, DON’T smoke or use other nicotine products.
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.
Studies have found a correlation between oral 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 don’t think oral bacteria is a problem, notice just how quickly the sticky film of plaque can form in the brief time between brushing in the morning and at night. Now, imagine the damage these reproducing organisms can do without the continual cleansing action of saliva.
Remember, oral bacteria are living organisms. This means they eat and produce waste – in your mouth! YUCK! That image, in itself, should be good incentive to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum!
Rather than deal with dry mouth problems that can require expensive and time consuming treatment, let’s work together to help you prevent these problems in the first place.
Call 586-739-2155 to arrange an exam. Or, ask for a free consultation to begin. This will allow you to meet us and have your questions answered in a no-cost, no obligation conversation.