Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition in which inadequate saliva is produced. For some, the symptoms of dry mouth may be temporary, while others may chronically suffer from this condition. If you regularly experience dry mouth, it's important to seek treatment because dry mouth poses many risks to oral health. Fortunately, general dentistry treatments can help keep your smile healthy and looking its best. Protect your smile from the dangers of dry mouth with these tips from Rockville dentist Victor R. Siegel.
The Causes and Symptoms of Dry Mouth
Dry mouth has many causes. For some, dry mouth may be a temporary condition caused by dehydration or breathing dry air. Others who suffer from dry mouth on a regular basis may experience symptoms as a result of something more severe like damaged salivary glands, oral infections, or oral disease. Other causes include tobacco use, removed salivary glands, and certain medications. The symptoms of dry mouth include:
- The mouth and tongue feel dry
- Sore or split corners of the mouth
- Oral sores
- Regularly feeling thirsty
- Cracked, dry lips
- Dry throat and nasal passages
The Dangers of Dry Mouth
Saliva is vital to oral health. Saliva is a natural aid that can help prevent tooth decay, and it helps with digestion. Saliva helps neutralize acids from food and oral bacteria, and it washes away food remnants from the teeth. Without adequate saliva production, the teeth are at increased risk of damage and the mouth is left vulnerable to oral health issues, such as:
- Tooth decay: When insufficient saliva is produced, harmful bacteria and food particles are left on the teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
- Gum disease: Because dry mouth leaves bacteria and food remnants on the teeth, those with dry mouth are also at greater risk of developing gum disease.
- Dental staining: Dry mouth increases the risk of dental staining by leaving food particles and plaque on the teeth.
- Tooth loss: In cases where tooth decay or gum disease are left untreated, tooth loss may occur.
- Difficulty tasting foods: Those who suffer from dry mouth may experience difficulty tasting foods.
- Oral discomfort: It's not uncommon for people with dry mouth to experience general oral discomfort.
- Mouth sores: Mouth sores may develop due to dry mouth, making eating uncomfortable or even painful.
- Oral infections: Oral infections are also more likely to develop in those who suffer from dry mouth.
Tips to Protect Your Smile from Dry Mouth
Determining the cause of dry mouth is key to successful treatment. However, you can help protect your smile from the dangers of dry mouth by following these tips:
- Prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to the air
- Alcohol in mouthwash can dry the mouth, so switch to an alcohol-free solution
- Improve saliva production by chewing on sugar-free gum
- Limit starchy foods in your diet, like bread and potatoes, as starchy foods can reduce saliva flow
- Use an over-the-counter saliva substitute
Schedule a Consultation
For answers to your dry mouth questions or to discuss a treatment plan, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Siegel.