By Lauren Lapoint

Dry Mouth is Doing More Harm Than You Think

Dry mouth is essentially when your mouth is open too long while you sleep, allowing air and bacteria to enter, drying you out and leaving a whole host of uncomfortable physical and dental issues. 

Saliva, or spit, is made by the salivary gland and is very important for a healthy mouth.  Saliva moistens and breaks down food, washes away food particles from teeth and gums and helps people swallow.  In addition, saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate that help keep teeth strong and fight tooth decay.

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is the condition of not having enough saliva to keep the mouth moist.¬† Dry mouth can happen to anyone occasionally ‚Äď for example when one is under stress.¬† But persistent dry mouth is a problem that can have many sources and lead to a number of health problems.¬† One such problem is tooth decay as saliva helps control germ buildup. Here are some others:

  • With decreased saliva, plaque and bacteria can build up quickly at the base of your teeth, making you more susceptible to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease such as gingivitis or periodontitis.¬†¬†
  • Dental prosthetics are also at risk with reduced saliva.¬† Plaque and bacterial buildup can lead to peri-implantitis, infecting and inflaming the gums around your dental implant crowns.
  • Insufficient saliva can weaken tooth enamel, make dentures difficult to wear and interfere with the ability to taste or digest food.
  • Dry mouth can lead to mouth sores and oral candidiasis, a yeast infection commonly known as oral thrush.
  • Dry mouth is a common cause of sleep disruption, compromising the sound sleep needed for good heart health and as preparation for alert waking hours.

There are many causes of dry mouth:

  • Side effects of some medicines, or aging
  • Disease, such as diabetes
  • Radiation therapy
  • Damage to the salivary gland
  • Mouth breathing (as opposed to nasal breathing) which causes the rapid evaporation of saliva

The treatment for dry mouth will largely depend on its cause.  If it arises from a side effect of medication, your doctor may try to alter the medication.  However, there are a number of non-medical or behavioral approaches to dry mouth that are easily adopted.  For example,

  • Sipping water more regularly throughout the day
  • Limiting coffee or other drinks that contain caffeine
  • Chewing sugarless gum or candies
  • Avoiding tobacco and alcohol
  • Sleeping with a humidifier
  • Breathing through your nasal passages, not your mouth¬†

To prevent oral complications from dry mouth, treat the condition in the above way(s) that works best for you.  But if your silva is not doing its job, you should double-down on an oral hygiene routine that is second to none and keeps oral bacteria away.  That is:

  • Be sure to brush twice a day
  • Floss daily, supplementing with water flossers or interdental¬† brushes as needed
  • Rinse with an antimicrobial¬† mouthwash
  • See your dental professionals routinely to remove plaque and check your overall oral health.¬†¬†

Respecting the last behavioral approach listed to addressing dry mouth, wearing mouth tape at night is an excellent approach to reducing dry mouth.  If one breaths while sleeping with his or her mouth open, this will exacerbate dry mouth regardless of another root cause.  This is because saliva evaporates during mouth breathing, especially at night when we are not conscious of a breathing patterns.  There are many benefits to nasal breathing but one of the surest benefits is the reduction of dry mouth, regardless of the underlying cause.  Of course, mouth taping is not for everyone and consultation with your doctor or dentist is recommended prior to adopting this widely helpful remedy.

If mouth taping is a behavioral approach to that dry mouth that appeals to you, offers a product that is easy and comfortable to use.


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