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Understanding the connection between “dry mouth” and cavities

Mon, Apr 1, 2013

Oral Cancer News

Author: Rob Gazzola

Do you have an unusually dry mouth? Do you suffer from bad breath, cracked lips, split skin at your mouth’s corners or a frequent sore throat? If your answer is “yes,” your symptoms may be caused by xerostomia, a condition caused by a lack of saliva. More commonly known simply as “dry mouth,” xerostomia can also cause difficulties swallowing and speaking and an altered sense of taste.

Even worse, the condition can lead to an increase of tooth decay and plaque. Saliva plays an important role in maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. It protects your teeth’s enamel by neutralizing potentially harmful acids, and it rinses food debris away from both the teeth and the gums. Without it, food particles, plaque and acid build up in your mouth, leading to tooth decay.

Luckily, there are many ways to improve dry mouth symptoms:

To stimulate the production of saliva, suck on hard candies or chew gum. Just make sure the varieties you choose are sugar-free.

Caffeine can dry out your mouth even more, so limit your intake of tea, coffee, soda and other caffeinated products.

Avoid foods and candies with high levels of acid or sugar. These foods can raise your risk of developing tooth decay.

When eating fruit, try to avoid dried fruit as generally they are high in sugar and often leave particles that cling to your teeth, while fresh fruit, though also having sugar content, is less likely to cause issues as the chewing stimulates the gums, increases saliva flow in the mouth and reduces the build-up of cavity-causing bacteria.

Protect your teeth by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste or using a fluoride rinse before bedtime, as saliva flow slows while you sleep, and it can be especially harmful to go to sleep without brushing your teeth.

Stay away from mouthwashes that contain alcohol. These products can dry out your mouth.

If you smoke or chew tobacco, quit.

Moisten your mouth by sucking on ice chips or sipping water throughout the day. Drinking water during meals can make it easier to swallow and chew.

While often not clearly understood, the causes and impact of dry mouth correlate directly with dental health and cavities, so look to protect your oral health by addressing cavity-causing activities and associated dry mouth symptoms.

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