Dry mouth causes increased rates of decay to tooth structures
If there is one health consideration to keep in mind during a sweltering Florida summer, it is the need to keep our bodies hydrated. This is true whether you are exercising or simply sitting poolside.
From personal experience, I can tell you it is challenging to stay adequately hydrated when I ride my bicycle around the Naples area. It concerns me that many of my patients who already suffer from dry mouth are coming into the office even more dehydrated than usual. You can take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
What is dry mouth?
Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition in which your body does not produce a healthy amount of saliva. This can be very detrimental to your teeth, causing increased rates of decay to the root surfaces due to the absence of cleansing saliva. Dehydration is a common cause of dry mouth, but other factors can play a role as well.
Dry mouth often occurs in older patients as a result of taking multiple medications. It also can appear in patients experiencing increased autoimmune conditions such as Sjorgen’s syndrome. This is when the immune system attacks the glands that make moisture in your mouth, eyes and other parts of your body. These same patients also typically have a greater amount of gum recession, which means they have more root exposure. A lack of saliva makes decay of those roots even more probable.
What can you do to combat dry mouth?
Drinking plenty of water is the most obvious answer, but there are other options you can add to your anti-dry mouth arsenal. If you feel thirsty and drinking a lot of water doesn’t seem to quench your thirst, then it’s likely you are electrolyte-deficient. Balancing your electrolyte levels has the added benefits of helping your heart and muscle function, preventing cramps and minimizing restless leg syndrome.
My favorite electrolyte supplement is Nuun Lemon/Lime drink. It works quickly, tastes light and refreshing, and is free from the high sugar content found in many sports drinks such as Gatorade. It is a dentist’s dream for all the good it can do for your body and mouth without the downside of added sugar.
Other products worth checking into include Biotène, which functions like artificial saliva. Xylimelts makes a gel that encourages saliva stimulation. Placing it between your cheek and gum at night can provide some relief from dry mouth.
A drug called Salagen (pilocarpine is the generic version) has proven helpful for some of my patients, especially those whose salivary glands have been affected by radiation treatments for cancer. Salagen seems to work best for people who retain at least partial function of their salivary glands. Some side effects are possible, so as is the case with all medications, be sure to discuss this with your physician and pharmacist.
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body regardless of whether you have underlying health conditions or not. From an oral health perspective, your mouth and teeth will thank you.
About Dr. Dennis Lucas – Naples, Florida, dentist
Dr. Dennis Lucas performs cosmetic and restorative dental techniques, as well as traditional preventive dental services for patients in and around Naples, Florida. His expertise, supported by the latest in dental technology, ensures oral health plays a role in his patients’ total healthcare picture. Call (239) 262-5851 to schedule an appointment.