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Dry Mouth – Understanding Its Causes and Risks

April 9, 2014


Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia, is normal. We have all experienced the sticky, dry feeling in our mouths and throats at some time. We usually experience it when we are nervous, upset, under stress or dehydrated. It is normal. However, if you consistently suffer from dry mouth, you are setting up your mouth’s environment for promoting tooth decay.

Saliva plays an important role in reducing cavities. A consistently dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant but also probably more serious than you think. Take note that dry mouth is NOT a normal part of aging. So if you suffer from it, consult with your dentist or physician. It maybe a sign of a more serious problem.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth occurs when there is an insufficient flow of saliva. Your major salivary glands are located in two places:

  1. inside the checks by the back top molars and
  2. in the floor of the mouth, with about six hundred tiny glands scattered throughout your mouth.

Between two and four pints of saliva are secreted every day, saliva is the key for protecting your teeth from decay. Smoking, taking medications, not drinking enough water and alcohol consumption are common causes of dry mouth. A dry mouth is not a disease, but maybe a symptom of an underlying disease.

Why is Saliva Important?

  • Saliva lubricates your mouth for chewing, eating, digestion and even speaking.
  • Saliva neutralizes and buffers acids caused by bacteria and food (soda, sugar) to protect the enamel of the tooth and prevent it from eroding, causing tooth decay.
  • Saliva can reverse de-mineralization with its high mineral content.

Healthy saliva actually re-mineralizes the outer layers of tooth enamel, but the process can take 30-60 minutes. That's why it's important not to snack on sugars or drink sodas between meals or your mouth will be acidic all the time.

What Can We Do for a Dry Mouth?

  • Sip water or sugarless drinks often.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and some sodas. Caffeine can dry out the mouth.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy to stimulate saliva flow.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • Use a humidifier at night.
  • Visit your dentist more frequently than every six months to address your increased risk of tooth decay.

Consult with Dr. Reese

If your mouth is usually dry, make an appointment with us to assess the causes of the problem. The solution may be as simple as drinking more water and using good daily oral hygiene, or it may necessitate prescription medication to promote more saliva flow. However it may be more serious with medical implications. Dr. Reese may recommend the use of HA Nano Gel to prevent dry mouth, erosion and decay. This product is also fluoride-free! Make sure to ask whether this product is right for you at your next appointment with Indianapolis Dentistry!

Drop us a call at 317-882-0228 or email today!