If you’ve ever been dehydrated, you know the feeling of a dry mouth. Your mouth may feel sticky or uncomfortable, or your breath may be less than pleasant.
Dry mouth is a condition that has consequences for your oral health, especially if you suffer from chronic dry mouth, sometimes referred to as xerostomia. There are many causes of a dry mouth, and remedying this condition will all depend on addressing the root cause.
What oral health concerns are caused by dry mouth?
Increased Risk for Tooth Decay and Infections
Part of saliva’s role in our mouths is to balance oral bacteria. This balance is easily thrown off by having less saliva in your oral cavity. Dry mouth increases your risk for tooth decay, as well as for fungal infections such as oral thrush .
Lack of saliva gives bad bacteria a better chance to attack your tooth enamel. If you repeatedly experience dry mouth, your tooth enamel can suffer, which can cause cavities or an infection to occur.
Tooth enamel protects your teeth and plays a vital role in keeping them healthy and strong. However, in cases of dry mouth, bacteria can attack your tooth enamel, causing uncomfortable sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity is the result of a demineralization of your tooth enamel, which is what happens when acids and bacteria weaken enamel over time . People who experience chronic dry mouth are more likely to have sensitive teeth.
You may experience this sensitivity when eating very hot or very cold foods, but some people experience painful sensitivity when eating sweet or spicy foods as well.
Did you know dry mouth also increases your risk for gum disease ? This is because people who have less saliva in their mouths tend to have more plaque on their teeth. Plaque is the result of food particles and bacteria that can build up on your teeth over time.
If not removed, plaque can begin to irritate your gumline, which can eventually lead to an ongoing infection and gum disease. While brushing and flossing certainly helps to remove plaque—along with professional teeth cleanings—dry mouth can make plaque and its effects worse even for people who keep up with their oral care.
What Can You Do?
Dry mouth can be the result of many things, among them certain medications, dehydration, tobacco and alcohol use, and even certain autoimmune disorders. Determining the cause of your dry mouth is essential to treating it.
Your dentist can help you determine what’s causing your dry mouth and work with you to not only remedy the problem, but to take the best care of your teeth and gums to prevent damage that can lead to tooth decay, oral infections, gum disease, and tooth sensitivity.
If you experience dry mouth, don’t hesitate to reach out to your oral healthcare professional. Your saliva plays a crucial role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy, so don’t ignore dry mouth!