Having enough saliva in your mouth is important to both your general health and your dental health. Our saliva is part of the digestive system and helps us break down our food. Not having enough, dry mouth, can compromise our digestion and add stress to our stomachs. Saliva is also an essential piece of the health of our mouths and teeth. It moistens the tissues, cleanses food particles off the teeth and protects us against the germs that cause cavities.
There are many things that can cause the saliva to change in either quantity or quality. As a normal part of aging our mouths will get more dry. Many commonly prescribed medications that treat high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and anxiety and depression can decrease the amount of saliva we produce. There are also some common medical conditions that can cause dry mouth. Whatever the cause when we have less saliva, or the saliva changes we need to know that we are at greater risk of getting cavities, having ginvigivitis and losing teeth.
I very commonly have patients come in who have not had a new cavity in decades, and suddenly they have several areas that we have to fix with fillings or crowns. When we start to figure out what happened it comes down to a change in their bodies ability to protect the teeth due to lack of saliva. We can also tell during your exam by the visual appearance of your saliva, tongue and gum tissue if you are suffering from dry mouth even before you may have symptoms. What I hope we can do is have this conversation with our patients before they have new dental problems to fix. Discuss with your dentist or hygienist any new medications that you have started taking, any changes to your health or any concerns you have about your saliva. It can be a simple matter of increasing your prevention by using a prescription toothpaste at home, having a fluoride treatment at your hygiene appointments or using other simple preventive strategies.
Here are some signs of dry mouth to watch out for:
- Feeling like you need to have a sip of water more often
- Needing or wanting to chew gum or use mints or hard candies
- Your upper lip sticking to your top teeth
- Red irritated tongue of gum tissue
- Burning when you eat spicy foods.
- Dry throat
- Bad Breath