Many people experience dry mouth, a condition where the mouth doesn't produce as much saliva as it should. The causes of this can vary widely, as it can be due to things like taking prescribed medications, drugs, or simple genetics. While it's a situation that many people simply try to cope with by drinking more water or suffering through the sensation, making this choice could be putting your overall dental health at risk. Here's what you should know about dry mouth and its potential impact on your oral health.
One of the biggest problems with having dry mouth is that it can lead to more bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria are ultimately responsible for the development of plaque and dental decay.
While people typically don't give saliva or spit much thought, it serves an important purpose. In addition to starting the digestion process while you chew, it's also responsible for effectively flushing out bacteria and helping to prevent them from sticking to your gums and teeth and producing plaque. With less saliva, this effect is weakened, allowing more bacteria to proliferate.
Unfortunately, a lack of saliva can also lead to a problem called sticky plaque, which you may have been diagnosed with by your dentist in the past. Sticky plaque is essentially a condition where more plaque develops than usual, and it has a particularly sticky quality. You may have noticed this stuff when you wake up in the morning. If you've ever noticed white, stretchy gunk left on the inside of your lips or on the surface of your teeth in the morning when you wake up, that's likely sticky plaque. More sticky plaque can speed up and increase the risk of developing gum disease and dental decay.
What to Do
Drinking water throughout the day is a good start to compensating for dry mouth, but nobody can sip on water 24 hours a day. You should continue drinking, but it's also time to talk to a dentist.
When you visit your dentist, bring a list of any medications you may be taking. Your dentist will be able to identify any that might be causing this problem. In addition to treating the damage done by dry mouth, your dentist can provide you with medication and mouthwash that help to stimulate the body to produce more saliva and hold onto the saliva that is produced. This can help to keep your mouth hydrated even during the middle of the night when you're asleep, alleviating your symptoms and risk of dental decay and gum disease.