You may not realize how much you need your spit – until it is gone. Low saliva production, also known as dry mouth, can be quite uncomfortable to deal with. Everyday activities such as eating, speaking and swallowing can become a challenge if you don’t have adequate amounts of saliva in your mouth. But did you know that dry mouth is more than an inconvenience? It can put your oral health in danger too!
What is Xerostomia?
The medical term for dry mouth is xerostomia (pronounced zero-STO-me-ah). It occurs when salivary glands in the mouth do not produce enough saliva. Xerostomia is not a disease but typically a response or side effect of something else. However, that doesn’t mean dry mouth can go unchecked. When saliva stays low or absent for long periods of time, the health of your teeth and gums is at risk. The American Dental Association describes dry mouth as “a common, complex and under-recognized condition.” Learning about xerostomia and its causes can help you avoid this potential disruption and danger towards your smile health.
How Saliva Supports Dental Health
Saliva does far more than keep your mouth comfortable. One of saliva’s key functions is washing food debris and bacteria away from your teeth and gums after you eat. It also works to neutralize the acids in your mouth to help you avoid enamel erosion and decay. You may be surprised to know that while saliva is composed of more than 99% water, it also contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and phosphates as well as immunoglobulins, proteins and enzymes. Some of these minerals and nutrients are vital towards protecting your oral health.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Why does your mouth feel like cotton? While many of us have experienced a dry mouth on some occasion, if you are someone who lives with this condition on a daily basis, it needs to be investigated.
The causes of dry mouth are widespread and include factors that are within your control and some that are not. It is important to let a dentist help you determine the culprit to your dry mouth so that an appropriate treatment plan can be put in place.
Here are some common reasons that you may lack spit:
- Medications. It’s a common side effect of several prescription drugs.
- Lifestyle habits and choices. Improper hydration, sleeping with your mouth open, smoking, chewing tobacco and consuming alcohol.
- Aging. Estrogen, for example, drops in women after menopause, which may be linked to dry mouth.
- Asthma. Inhalers can result in dry mouth.
- Allergies. Due to taking anti-histamines or mouth-breathing.
- Type 2 diabetes. Dry mouth is a symptom of Type 2 diabetes.
Dry Mouth Remedies
Relieving dry mouth begins with determining its cause. It could be as simple as drinking more water, avoiding salty foods or changing your medications. However, if your dry mouth is not something you can control, it is very important that you let a dentist treat your condition. There are special ways to create “artificial saliva” and protect your oral health in the process. These may include oral sprays, swabs, dissolving tablets or gels. Other patients may find that chewing sugar-free gum is an easy way to stimulate more saliva production. Treatment is always patient specific.
At Grateful Dental, we help patients recognize the value of their spit. Not only do you need your saliva for proper digestion and comfort, but it offers powerful benefits towards keeping your smile healthy and strong. If you find yourself struggling to find moisture in your mouth, please let us know. We can treat any dental health issues that your dry mouth may have already caused as well as recommend ways to manage your dry mouth going forward.
Call our Marietta office today to schedule your dry mouth treatment with one of our caring and talented dentists.