A chronically dry mouth isn’t only annoying and uncomfortable. It is bad for your teeth, gums and general oral health.
So, whatever your motivation, get treatment if you have an arid mouth.
“If you have dry mouth, you not only need to see your dentist to find out what’s going on. You need to have a dental exam and teeth cleaning to help treat possible problems it has caused to your gums and teeth,” said Gulfport dentist Vernon Beamon, D.M.D.
Dry mouth – technically called xerostomia – can affect adults of any age. It can be caused by dental problems, poorly functioning salivary glands, certain foods, smoking, drinking, related to aging and just from sleeping with your mouth open. It often is a side effect of some prescription medications. It also can be a symptom of some other condition or medical treatment.
Untreated, it can be dangerous to your oral and, eventually, general health, according to Dr. Beamon and the American Dental Association (ADA).
If dry mouth persists, keep regular appointments for care and cleaning every six months, Dr. Beamon and dental studies recommended.
Dry mouth is characterized by lack of adequate saliva flow in the mouth. The inside of your mouth often feels dehydrated or sticky with cracked lips, dry tongue and roof of mouth, bad breath and/or sores or infections.
Saliva plays a key role in digestion and it cleans your teeth and gums. Inadequate saliva can make you far more likely to have tooth decay, cavities and gum diseases, Dr. Beamon said. Saliva helps keep food from collecting around your teeth.
Plaque is a bacteria that coats your teeth and produces acid. Food or beverages with sugar cause plaque to produce more acid, which causes more tooth decay, he explained. Saliva makes this acid less harmful to your teeth.
“Dry mouth definitely is more likely to be a problem as we age, but it’s not a forgone conclusion that seniors will get it,” Dr. Beamon added. “Seniors also should not automatically expect to lose their teeth or get dry mouth. But dental care does become more vital as we age.”
If you have saliva flow problems, good oral hygiene is particularly important. Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
To compensate for chronic dry mouth, sip water, use mouthwash for dry mouth or a saliva substitute, suck on sugarless candy (without aspartame), or chew ADA-approved sugarless gum (without aspartame).
Sources: Beamon Dental, American Dental Association and various dental studies.