Persistent dryness in the mouth can increase a patient’s risk for certain oral health conditions including cavities and gum disease. Also known as, xerostomia, dry mouth affects the pH level of the oral cavity, dries out soft tissue, and can lead to an acidic environment that weakens teeth (making them susceptible to decay). If patients have persistent dry mouth, we encourage them to schedule a checkup with our dentist as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause of xerostomia as well as how best to protect oral structures from its effects.
What causes xerostomia?
Dry mouth has a number of causes. Some medical conditions like diabetes can affect saliva production. Medications including anti-histamines, over the counter sleeping aids, and anti-depressants can reduce saliva production as well. Dehydration, smoking, and alcohol consumption have an effect on the mouth’s moisture levels, too. When speaking with our dentist, our team will help you narrow down potential causes of your symptoms by evaluating your medical history, medication regimen, and lifestyle habits.
How does dry mouth weaken teeth?
Saliva is a natural rinsing agent that helps flush out debris from the oral cavity while also diluting acidic compounds. When the mouth is too acidic, caused by diminished saliva production or the consumption of acidic foods and drinks, the enamel layer of teeth will soften. Weakened tooth enamel leaves the interior surfaces of teeth vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria.
How does dry mouth affect the gums?
In addition to increasing the risk for cavities, dry mouth negatively affects gum health. Soft oral tissues need to remain moist so that they are healthy. Dry mouth and diminished saliva production dries soft oral tissue including the gums. When the gums are dry, they are more susceptible to becoming irritated and inflamed. Inflamed and irritated gums can become infected, which is a factor in the development of gum disease.
We encourage patients to drink water throughout the day and avoid acidic foods or lifestyle habits that affect saliva production. For questions about dry mouth and how it affects oral health, call our office to reserve an appointment with one of our dentists.