Having a dry mouth from time to time isn’t generally a big deal—drinking water can help relieve the occasional dry mouth and prevent the bad breath that often comes with it! However, some people experience chronic dry mouth, also called xerostomia.
When you have chronic dry mouth, your body isn’t producing enough saliva to protect your teeth and gums from harmful bacteria and acids. There are many reasons why someone would develop chronic dry mouth, with age, medication, and certain health conditions being the most common causes.
Can having a chronic dry mouth harm your dental health? Here’s what you need to know!
Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Your mouth produces saliva for a few important reasons. Saliva helps break down food in the oral cavity, preparing it for digestion and signaling to your stomach that it’s about to receive food. However, saliva also protects your teeth from tooth decay .
When your mouth has enough saliva, harmful bacteria, acids from food, and food particles are being constantly washed away. But when there isn’t enough saliva, there’s not as much of a buffer between teeth and harmful substances, which can increase your risk of tooth decay. Chronic dry mouth may also promote the harmful bacteria that are seen in gum disease . Since your risk of chronic dry mouth, tooth decay, and gum disease increase naturally as you age, ensuring proper saliva production is integral to good oral health.
You May Develop Oral Thrush
People have a small amount of a natural fungus called Candida albicans in their bodies, including in the oral cavity. Normally, this fungus doesn’t cause a problem. In fact, it’s helpful to a few processes in the body, including digestion and the removal of bad bacteria.
However, in people who have chronic dry mouth, there’s not enough saliva present to keep candida in balance . Candida overgrowth can then ensue, leading to an infection known as oral thrush. Oral thrush is an uncomfortable condition that can cause sores in the mouth and a burning sensation that will need professional treatment to go away.
How to Combat Chronic Dry Mouth
Preventing and treating chronic dry mouth will depend on the root cause of the problem, whether it’s a health condition such as diabetes or a medication such as an antihistamine. You may need to try a different medication, visit your dentist more often, or make a few lifestyle changes.
A few things you can do to help combat chronic dry mouth include:
- Chewing sugar-free gum 
- Sipping water throughout the day
- Eating foods that have a high water content, such as fruit
- Reducing your caffeine intake
Your doctor and dentist can talk with you about ways to help treat your chronic dry mouth to protect your oral health!
Do You Suffer From Dry Mouth?
If you suffer from chronic dry mouth, don’t ignore the problem. Dry mouth can increase your risk for oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease, not to mention bad breath. Ask your dentist how you can help treat your dry mouth to protect your smile!