Does your mouth get dry frequently? Dry mouth is a surprisingly common problem, and it can stem from a variety of causes.
When there isn’t enough saliva and moisture in your mouth, it can accelerate tooth decay, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Keeping a glass of water at your bedside can help you stave off dry mouth and reduce your susceptibility to tooth decay.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can stem from any of a number of causes. It’s especially common in older people. As you age, your body produces less saliva, which can leave your mouth feeling uncomfortably dry. It’s also a side effect of many widely-used medications, including SSRI antidepressants, lithium, antihistamines, acid reflux drugs, diuretics, and benzodiazepines, among others. In a few cases, it can even be a relatively rare condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome.
The Relationship Between Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay
The saliva in your mouth helps wash away bacteria and food particles, and a lack of saliva can cause plaque to accumulate more quickly and in greater amounts. This makes you more susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, and halitosis. In some cases, it can also make you more likely to develop oral candidiasis, a yeast infection of the mouth commonly called “thrush.”
Preventing Tooth Decay by Treating Dry Mouth
Treating dry mouth can help you prevent tooth decay. The easiest way is to keep a bottle of water with you and sip on it periodically, which moistens your mouth and reduces dryness and discomfort. Dry and salty foods can exacerbate xerostomia, as can frequent alcohol consumption, smoking, and caffeine. Keeping your mouth moistened with water helps prevent oral complications.
It’s also important to pay attention to your oral hygiene routine. You should be brushing twice a day and flossing once. It doesn’t matter whether you brush first or floss first. What really matters is that you do both.
Contrary to what TV commercials like to tell you, the brands of toothpaste and toothbrush you’re using don’t matter that much. What does matter is using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride anions react with other chemicals in your mouth to form fluorapatite, in which an F- (fluoride ion) replaces an OH- group. This allows fluoride to be incorporated into your teeth, helping the remineralization process after tooth decay has eaten away at the enamel. Chances are your local tap water has also been treated with fluoride, in the interest of ensuring everyone’s dental health. Contrary to widely-circulated conspiracy theories, fluoride is not poisonous or harmful in any way, at least not in the quantities in which it’s present in water.
As for toothbrushes, find one that’s comfortable to use. It doesn’t have to be fancy or electric, although some people like using an electric toothbrush as a matter of personal preference. Softer bristles are gentler on your teeth, and are a good choice if you’re prone to gingivitis and associated bleeding.
For flossing, you can use either standard dental floss or floss picks, depending on which you prefer. Both are capable of removing trapped food particles from between your teeth, which prevents bacteria from growing there and contributing to tooth decay and cavity formation.
Remember to See Your Dentist Regularly
Along with good hydration and a good oral hygiene routine, you should also see your dentist twice a year. At Access Dental, we provide dental cleanings, routine check-ups, and procedures to treat cavities and other oral health problems. Call us any time to book your next appointment with us.