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The Effects of Dry Mouth on Your Teeth

Having a dry mouth isn’t just annoying, it can also harm your teeth and gums. Understanding how dry mouth affects your teeth can help you take the right steps toward protecting your oral health. Continue reading to learn more about dry mouth, what causes it, and the harmful effects this condition can have on your teeth. 

What Is Dry Mouth?

Chronic dry mouth, a medical condition called xerostomia, happens when the body fails to produce enough saliva to lubricate the mouth. This can result in a dry, sticky mouth and stringy saliva. Dry mouth can also lead to difficulty chewing and swallowing, as well as some digestive problems. 

It’s normal to experience dry mouth from time to time, especially during the colder months. But frequent dry mouth can become a problem. If you suffer from dry mouth on a regular basis, speak with your doctor about treating it before it can cause serious damage to your teeth. 

Dry mouth can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Medications
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Tobacco and alcohol use
  • Certain medical conditions like diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or Sjogren’s syndrome

Three Negative Effects That Dry Mouth Has on Your Teeth

1: Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Without sufficient saliva production, your mouth can’t wash away plaque, bacteria, and food particles on its own. Your mouth gradually becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, making you more susceptible to serious consequences like tooth decay and gum disease. 

As plaque builds up on your teeth, it collects bacteria that wear down tooth enamel. This causes cavities, dental abscesses, and other forms of tooth decay. Plaque and bacteria buildup can also attack your gums, resulting in gum disease. When gum disease progresses, it causes more extensive damage to your gums (and even your jawbones) until they can no longer support your teeth.

If you have dry mouth, you may need to brush your teeth more than twice a day in order to keep plaque and bacteria under control. It’s also important to remember to drink water after you eat to remove food particles from your mouth. Your dentist might also recommend more frequent cleanings or periodontal treatments to better protect your teeth and gums. 

2: Bad Breath

The bacteria in your mouth produce a bad odor, and bacteria buildup due to dry mouth can result in chronic bad breath. 

When this happens, using mouthwash and mints may seem like a good way to freshen up your breath. However, mouth rinses that contain alcohol actually dry out your mouth even more, and mints are often full of sugar, which just leads to more tooth decay. So if you want fresh breath, make sure you choose an alcohol-free mouthwash and sugar-free mints or gum. 

3: Tooth Staining

Because it weakens your enamel, tooth decay stains your teeth over time, even if you don’t drink tooth-staining beverages like coffee. As your enamel weakens, it becomes thin enough to reveal the dentin underneath, which makes your teeth look yellow. 

You can fix the staining with a professional whitening treatment, but keep in mind that the results won’t last long if tooth decay continues. You’ll need to treat your dry mouth symptoms and follow a thorough oral hygiene routine to keep your teeth white.  

How to Relieve Dry Mouth Symptoms

Sometimes, the cause of dry mouth is unavoidable (like medications and diseases). Or, maybe you just need some relief while you wait for a treatment to take effect. Here are several ways you can cope with dry mouth symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking pure water
  • Use a humidifier when sleeping
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and overly salty foods
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production

Get Your Teeth Cleaned in Gilbert, Arizona

Professional cleanings can help prevent the damaging effects of dry mouth on your teeth. At Lifetime Family Dental, we provide gentle teeth cleanings that keep your smile bright and your teeth healthy. We’re also happy to discuss how you can protect your teeth from the effects of chronic dry mouth at home. Call us at 480-558-4331 today to make an appointment.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/8/2022). Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash