If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of dry mouth, you know that it’s not something that can be ignored. A dry mouth is a condition in which there is inadequate saliva in the mouth and can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.
Saliva plays an important role in preventing tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath by washing away leftover food and drink particles, neutralising acids and keeping your teeth clean and soft tissues healthy. Saliva also contains minerals that help strengthen your enamel, so if you don’t have enough saliva, it makes it easier for bacteria to attach to your enamel and cause damage.
If you have a dry mouth, your teeth may feel gritty and sticky, and the lining of your mouth is more prone to cracking and bleeding when exposed to air, making it difficult to eat or drink without experiencing discomfort.
What causes oral dryness?
There are a number of causes for dry mouth. These include:
- Medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, or antipsychotics.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and anxiety.
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol or excessive caffeine.
What are the symptoms and signs of oral dryness?
If you have a dry mouth, you may notice a number of symptoms and signs.
- Dry mouth — Your mouth is often parched or cottony.
- Bad breath — Saliva helps neutralise the bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath; with less saliva, these bacteria thrive.
- Tooth decay — A lack of saliva makes it harder to remove food particles from your teeth after eating or drinking, which can lead to dental cavities.
- Gum disease — Saliva contains enzymes that fight off harmful bacteria; without enough saliva, this function is impaired, and gums become inflamed and more susceptible to developing gingivitis (inflamed gums) or periodontal disease (gum recession and bone loss).
What are the consequences of oral dryness?
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- Bad breath
- Altered or loss of taste
- Fungal and bacterial infections
- Difficulty and pain in chewing and swallowing
How can I manage my oral dryness?
There are several things you can do to reduce oral dryness, such as:
- Quit smoking.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks.
- Drink plenty of water (at least 8 glasses per day).
- Use a humidifier in your home or office to moisten the air you breathe.
- Use a saliva substitute such as Oral7®, which contains xylitol and other ingredients to moisten your mouth.
- Use dry mouth-friendly toothpaste and mouth rinse such as Oral7® to clean and moisten your teeth and oral tissues.
- Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free lollies to stimulate saliva.
Dry mouth is a common condition that affects many people. It can be caused by various factors, and it may affect your daily activities, including eating and talking. If you experience any signs or symptoms of dry mouth or have questions about how to treat your dry mouth, we recommend you consult a dentist.
Suppose you live in an area where Oral Medicine Specialists are unavailable. In that case, your dentist or GP, can refer you to us using our website: TeleOralMedicine.
Also, GPs and dentists can refer their patients using the following link: https://teleoralmed.com.au/patient-referral/