A Dry Mouth Increases Risk Of Oral Diseases

Posted on Aug 02, 2012 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Saliva plays an important role in maintaining good oral health. A healthy adult normally produces about one-and-a-half liters of saliva daily, making it easy to talk, swallow, taste and digest food. A dry mouth irritates oral tissues, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Decreased saliva flow can increase plaque accumulation and the risk of developing periodontal disease, leading to tooth decay, mouth sores and oral infections.

With regular saliva production, your teeth are constantly bathed in a mineral-rich solution that helps keep teeth strong and resistant to decay. Without the cleansing and shielding effects of adequate saliva flow, tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease are more common. Inadequate saliva can contribute to bad breath, dry and cracked lips, make dentures uncomfortable and result in painful sores, and increase oral infection risk.

While the aging process is a contributing factor, dry mouth is also caused by certain medications that reduce salivary production. There are over 500 medications that can contribute to oral dryness, including antihistamines, blood pressure medications, decongestants, pain medications, diuretics and antidepressants. Nearly half of all Americans take at least one prescription daily, including many that produce dry mouth, including over 90% of adults over the age of 65. Because older adults frequently use more of these medications, they are at greater risk of experiencing dry mouth.

Be sure to update your medication list at every appointment. Increasing fluids, chewing sugarless gum, and frequent sips of water can help relieve dry mouth symptoms. Avoid tobacco and caffeine as well as alcohol and carbonated beverages if you have the condition. We can also recommend saliva substitutes and oral moisturizers to help manage dry mouth.

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