Occasional dry mouth isn't always a cause for alarm, but when dry mouth happens consistently, it can lead to serious dental damage, including tooth decay and tooth loss. General dentistry treatments can help protect the teeth and gums from the damage of dry mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, you may be at serious risk for dental damage and other oral health problems. To learn more about your treatment options for dry mouth and dental damage, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with our Missouri, TX team of dentists at Fort Bend Dental.
What Is Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition in which the salivary glands are unable to produce a sufficient amount of saliva to keep the mouth comfortable and lubricated. In some cases, dry mouth may be caused by breathing dry air or being dehydrated and is only a temporary condition. In other cases, dry mouth may be a chronic problem with a more serious underlying cause, such as uncontrolled diabetes, salivary gland infection, or damage to the salivary glands.
Dry Mouth and the Risk of Dental Damage
Dry mouth can be uncomfortable but it can also cause serious oral health problems. Saliva is important to oral health, providing a natural defense against tooth decay and acid erosion. Saliva helps reduce acid erosion and decay by washing away food debris from the teeth, neutralizing acids within the mouth, and restoring minerals to the enamel. When dry mouth occurs for an extended period of time, it can increase the risk of dental damage, including:
- Tooth decay: The risk of tooth decay is increased with dry mouth since the lack of saliva production can leave higher levels of acid, plaque, and food debris on the teeth.
- Gum disease: Dry mouth also increases the risk of gum disease, a bacterial infection of the gums. As gum disease progresses, pockets may form between the gums and teeth, allowing plaque and bacteria to reach below the gum line and increasing the risk of tooth decay and tooth loss.
- Enamel erosion: Dry mouth can leave behind harmful acids on the teeth, resulting in enamel erosion. If left untreated, enamel erosion can lead to dental cavities and painful root canal infections.
- Dental stains: Dry mouth can increase the risk of dental stains and yellowing as a result of leaving behind food debris and enamel erosion.
Alleviating Dry Mouth and Preventing Dental Damage
Because there are many potential causes of dry mouth, it's important to obtain a diagnosis in order to appropriately treat the underlying causes of dry mouth. Although treatment will depend on the cause of dry mouth, some ways to alleviate dry mouth and prevent dental damage include:
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Swish the mouth with water after eating and between brushings
- Use an over-the-counter saliva substitute
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry air
- Encourage saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candy
- Brush and floss after meals whenever possible
- Brush and floss a minimum of twice a day
Discover Your Treatment Options
If you suffer from dry mouth, it's important to seek treatment to protect your oral health. To discover your treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consultation at Fort Bend Dental.