Xerostomia is the clinical term for chronic dry mouth. This condition is more than just a minor inconvenience. In addition to bad breath and difficulty eating and speaking, dry mouth can also lead to more serious oral health concerns, such as decay, gum disease, and more.
Today, our Hartford, CT dental team discusses dry mouth and dental damage, and explores the common causes and dental care treatments for this condition.
What Causes Chronic Dry Mouth?
Saliva is essential to optimal oral health. Not only does it protect your teeth from acid erosion, it also rinses the mouth and aids in proper enamel remineralization. Xerostomia occurs when the salivary glands do not produce adequate amounts of saliva.
Dry mouth can be caused by a number of factors. In addition to aging and dehydration, xerostomia can be triggered by certain health conditions and medications, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and other autoimmune disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Certain blood pressure medications
- Muscle relaxers
Common Problems Related to Dry Mouth
If dry mouth is not addressed in a timely manner, it can lead to serious oral health complications. Some of these include:
- Tooth decay: Saliva effectively washes food particles and debris from the teeth’s surfaces. Dry mouth inhibits this process and makes the teeth more vulnerable to cavities.
- Gum disease: Patients with dry mouth tend to build up plaque and tartar at a faster rate. When this build up is not removed, the bacteria in the plaque begin to irritate the gum tissue. If left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis, which erodes the supporting jawbone.
- Erosion: Dry mouth can cause tooth erosion to occur. Once the enamel is breached, the teeth are much more susceptible to damage.
- Staining: As the enamel erodes and more plaque accumulates, the risk for dental staining increases.
Dry Mouth Treatments
While there are a variety of treatments available to address dry mouth, the option recommended for you will depend on the root cause of the condition.
For example, if dehydration is the cause, then drinking plenty of water will be the first line of defense.
For dry mouth caused by a blocked salivary gland, your doctor can recommend ways to dislodge the obstruction, such as sucking on a hard candy.
Symptoms of age-related dry mouth can often be alleviated with specialized products intended to target xerostomia.
If you suffer from dry mouth, there are a few things you can do at home to mitigate your symptoms. To improve saliva production:
- Brush and floss every day: To maintain healthy teeth and gums, patients should brush at least two times every day and floss once per day. This will keep plaque, tartar, and other harmful irritants off of the teeth.
- Stay hydrated: In addition to drinking plenty of water, patients should also avoid foods that stick to the teeth, such as candy, crackers, and raisins. This will decrease the risk of decay.
- Use sugarless mints or gum: Essentially, anything that helps stimulate saliva production can help fight xerostomia. Chewing gum or sucking on mints can increase saliva production.
- Discuss medications with your doctor: If you are currently on medications, talk to you doctor about the possibility of changing them. Sometimes, altering the dosage or a specific medication can eliminate symptoms of dry mouth.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, it is important to have the issue assessed before it worsens. To schedule a consultation at our office, contact us online or call our office at (860) 659-8660.