By Dr. James Segulyev
Having enough saliva is important both to 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, or dry mouth, can compromise our digestion and add stress to our stomachs. Saliva is also an essential part of the health of our mouths and teeth. It moistens the gum tissues, cleanses food particles off the teeth and protects us against the germs that cause cavities.
Many things can cause saliva to change in either quantity or quality. Often, as a normal part of aging our mouths will get drier. Many commonly prescribed medications that treat high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, 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 saliva changes we need to know that we are at greater risk of getting cavities, gingivitis and losing teeth. It’s not uncommon for patients who have not had a new cavity in decades to suddenly have several and the only change is having a dry mouth. Often, when we start to figure out what happened it often comes down to a change in their bodies ability to protect the teeth due to lack of saliva.
Whenever patients notice having a dry mouth or when you start a new medication, we hope you’ll share that with us. A quick conversation can help you to avoid having new dental problems by adding fluoride rinses, prescription toothpaste, more frequent cleanings and using other simple preventive strategies.
Important 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