Somebody get me a drink!
Dry mouth. The symptoms of the condition are right in the name. But what exactly is dry mouth? Why is it such a big deal to dentists? What causes it? What are the risks? How can it be managed? And why is everyone making such a big deal about saliva?
Dry mouth occurs when there is a low flow of saliva in the mouth. Saliva is more than just drool or slobber; it actually plays a critical role in oral health. It functions in moistening and cleansing the mouth, digesting food, and preventing infection by controlling bacteria and fungi. Now, I know it is not pleasant to think that you have microorganisms crawling around on your chompers, but without adequate saliva production, the build-up of bacteria can cause tooth decay, making dry mouth one of the most prominent risk factors for developing cavities.
People who suffer from dry mouth have a very hard time with things most people take for granted.
-They have a hard time eating
-The ability to taste foods is reduced
-Sometimes the gums and cheeks hurt
-Constantly drinking water (and urinating)
The list goes on and on…
If you don’t have dry mouth, try to eat 10 small pretzels without water.
For a normal person, eating 10 pretzels without water simulates what it is like to eat when you suffer from dry mouth.
There are lots of causes of dry mouth, and the most prominent causes include:
-Many prescription and nonprescription drugs have dry mouth as a common side effect
-Drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, colds, and hypertension are known for their dry mouth side effects.
Diseases and Infections
-Reduced saliva flow can be a side effect to several medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, anemia, and hypertension.
-Another syndrome is Sjogrens syndrome. Dry eye and dry mouth are the main issue.
-The salivary glands that make saliva can experience damage during certain medical treatments such as radiation to the head or neck and chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Glands can become damaged and stop functioning.
-Nerve damage to the head or neck area could result in dry mouth due to damage to the brain signaling pathways the tell the salivary glands to ‘turn on’.
-Conditions that lead to dehydration such as excessive sweating, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and burns can cause dry mouth
-Foods containing caffeine can reduce saliva flow.
-Salty foods can make the mouth feel very dry (remember the handful of pretzels?)
Smoking / Tobacco Use
-These products can affect how much saliva you make and aggravate dry mouth
-The act of smoking itself can cause dry mouth as you are inhaling a dry heated smoke.
What are the risks of dry mouth? As mentioned before, the lack of saliva production in the mouth can cause bacteria to latch onto your teeth. Then when you eat foods, the simple sugars and carbohydrates that get stuck in the nooks and crannys of your teeth feed the bacteria. The bacteria eat the food/plaque, make more bacteria and you get even more plaque buildup! When bacteria poop out all the stuff they are eating (sugars/carbs/etc) the poop is acidic. The acid/plaque combo is what leads to serious rapid tooth decay.
Besides rampant tooth decay, dry mouth can also lead to sore gums and cheeks (or mucosa). it’s called ‘mucositis’. basically your mouth hurts. Seriously, if you don’t have dry mouth, try to eat 10 small pretzels without water. that’s how many people eat every meal.
Preventing and treating dry mouth:
-If you feel as if your dry mouth is being caused by certain medications, you should talk to your prescribing physician. They might recommend an adjustment to your dosage or switch you to a different drug that may not cause dry mouth. It’s a long shot but it’s worth a discussion with your doctor.
-try ACT mouth rinse “for dry mouth”. it’s in a white bottle. Here’s a picture.
-Find products that have “xylitol” in them. many gums like trident use this as well as a lozenge called ‘xylamint’, or ‘spry’. xylitol is extremely helpful for dry mouth.
-Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy to improve salivary flow.
-Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to keep the mouth moist
- limit breathing through your mouth in risk of causing it to dry out
-Try an over-the-counter artificial saliva substitute (Biotene is a major brand)
-Do not smoke or chew tobacco products
-If all else fails, some people even use oils like flaxseed oil or olive oil to help with dry mouth. Seriously! it helps! If you don’t have it you can’t appreciate how much of an issue it is.
Many people would rather taste olive oil ALL DAY than suffer dry mouth and it’s consequences.
All in all, dry mouth is a common problem. Luckily it’s pretty treatable with knowledge, prevention, and some therapeutics! If you are experiencing dry mouth, consult your dentist for help.
Did you find this information mouth-wateringly interesting? are you salivating for more? Please +1 on google or like us on facebook. Maybe more of Dr. Argersinger’s blog is for you! Maybe you should come see us at DurhamDDS in the heart of Durham on 1212 Broad St. To set up an appointment please call our office at 919-286-0779 or visit durhamdds.com for more information.
Is your dentist “prevention-oriented” enough?
Dentists have a unique professional obligations to their patients–to help teach them to NOT need the services dentists can provide (like fillings and crowns). The word doctor is derived from the Latin word “docere” meaning to teach. Dentists, like Dr. Argersinger, and his staff take this seriously and work daily with individual patients to help them:
1) understand the current condition of their plaque levels on their teeth and how they can clean them better at home
2) what (if any) dental treatments may be beneficial to their well-being and oral health.
By educating patients on the importance of brushing, flossing, and “at home care”, dentists are coaching and teaching “prevention-oriented” principles that their patients will benefit from.
So ask yourself…is your dentist “prevention-oriented” enough?
Well, it is a two way street. Most dentists try hard to convey this prevention attitude to patients, but patients also have to participate. Some dentists get tired of coaching patients about prevention because often times their advice is ignored or quickly forgotten. Dental professionals are responsible for helping patients understand their dental conditions, cause/effects relationships, but it is up to the patients to listen and apply the knowledge the other 363 days of the year! (assuming they go to the dentist twice a year)
Patients who don’t take the dentist’s advice seriously, can develop dental issues, some slow developing, some fast. Digital radiographs (aka x-rays) have the ability to identify dental issues before they become bigger ones, and with the help of modern technology, most dental issues are detected before the dentist can even see a cavity in the tooth! These dental issues don’t usually hurt in the early stages, however they still may be worsening. In fact, all known or unknown dental issues will generally worsen over time and many will eventually hurt. Now there is an even bigger problem at hand.
Don’t wait for things to hurt! (most dental problems don’t hurt)
A major factor that always influences patient decision making is cost, as in the cost of dealing or fixing dental problems. This being said, the longer you wait to address a dental issue, the more it will likely cost. For example, what was otherwise a small cavity that could have been treated with a small filling was left untreated and now requires a big filling. If that big cavity is left untreated, eventually you may need a root canal and maybe more to save your tooth. Sometimes the problem is so bad that you have no choice but to pull the tooth. Losing a tooth or teeth bothers most people. Dentists can help you keep your teeth for your whole life through oral health coaching, education, regular check-up and cleaning visits, and the very occasional dental work.
Are you a “prevention-oriented” patient?
Prevention-oriented patients are regulars for cleanings and check-ups, they take advantage of digital technologies to identify dental issues when they are small, and they follow through on coaching and recommendations on oral care at home. When you do your job and your dental team does theirs the results are generally less dental work and less costly problems. Now that is a prevention oriented team!
If you are searching for a dentist in the triangle area who is prevention-oriented, give DurhamDDS and Dr. Bill Argersinger a call! We offer a generous helping of dental services and prevention coaching for patients of all ages. To set up an appointment call our office at 919-286-0779 or visit durhamdds.com for more information. Did you like the style of this post? the message resonate with you? then please like us on Facebook or +1 us if you are a gmail-er, easy to do right at the top of the page! Thanks Dr. Bill.
Cavity Free, Year After Year
Being cavity free year after year is 100% possible. This is how you do it in a nutshell:
- Use these sweets only in moderation (less than every day):
|*Soda Pop||Sugary Drinks||Coffee (if you don’t drink it black)||Sports Drinks|
|Chewing Gum||Breath Mints & Fresheners||Cough Drops||Hard Candy (like Werthers®)|
|Sticky Candy||TUMS® or chewable antacids||Chewable Vitamin C||Chewable Aspirin|
Sugar-free alternatives, which are safe for your teeth*, are available for everything above.
- Keep your teeth “slick” and free of bacteria by brushing 2 to 4 times every day, and flossing every day.
- Use home fluoride treatment daily (Fluoridated toothpaste, fluoridated mouth-rinse).
- Granulated Xylitol! Dip your toothbrush/toothpaste in it and brush away! Seriously!
What Are Cavities? Cavities don’t just suddenly appear. A cavity starts with a healthy tooth. Bacteria that is present on the tooth (“plaque”) digest sugar and produce acid. With each and every exposure to acid (from the bacteria or from carbonated drinks), the tooth dissolves little by little, leaving a hole. The effects are cumulative; it takes hundreds and hundreds of these small episodes to damage the tooth enough to where we can identify it as a cavity. In some people it takes many years for enough acid exposures to accumulate and make a cavity; in other people, it takes only a few months.
Sugar: Most people know sugar and cavities go hand-in-hand. What many people don’t know is that it isn’t just how sweet something is that makes it bad for your teeth. It’s also how long the sugar is contacting your teeth. That is why soda pop, gum, mints, cough drops, hard candy, and sticky candy cause the most cavities. Antacids, chewable vitamins can also cause cavities.
*Soda Pop: Bad stuff for teeth! You get a double-whammy when you drink sodas. It is loaded with sugar, plus it’s extremely acidic (the carbonation) and can dissolve tooth enamel directly, bypassing the bacteria. Even sugar-free sodas damage teeth due to being so acidic! If it’s carbonated, it’s bad for teeth. Drink healthier beverages.
Brushing & Flossing: Cavities are caused when the bacteria on your teeth (“plaque”) changes sugar into acid. The more often you brush and floss, the less bacteria you have on your teeth to produce these damaging acids. Brushing twice a day is a minimum; three or even four times a day is best. Floss once a day. If you are not flossing, the bacteria is never removed from between your teeth. This is why people with good brushing and eating habits can still get cavities between teeth.
Fluoride: Fluoride can help prevent new cavities, and reverse early cavities when they are just starting. In most cases, using a toothpaste with fluoride is adequate. In people with higher tooth decay risk, an extra fluoride supplement is needed. These fluoride gels or rinses should be used consistently once every day on an ongoing basis. Fluoride mouth-rinses (Act®; Fluoriguard®) are available in most stores. Fluoride gels (such as Gel-Kam®; Prevident®) are available at your pharmacy desk, or at DurhamDDS.
Dry mouth: Saliva is a super-important natural defense against cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. The mouth can become unusually dry (“xerostomia”) as a side effect of many medications, diseases, or simply with age. People with very dry mouths can be quite susceptible to cavities. Minimize this risk by taking frequent sips of water throughout the day. Don’t suck on hard candy; the sugar will cause cavities very quickly. Use fluoride.
Doctor’s note: “I have seen dramatic changes in those patients who follow not just some, but all of these guidelines religiously.”