Learn more about dry mouth

Caused by an insufficient production and flow of saliva, dry mouth (xerostomia), is a condition that can adversely affect your oral health. If you suffer from dry mouth, treatment or additional self-care may be required.

The importance of saliva

Saliva is your mouth’s primary defense system against tooth decay. Maintaining moisture in the mouth is vital for the health of both soft and hard tissues. Saliva cleans away food particles and debris, helps to control mouth bacteria and neutralizes acids to balance pH.

Increase in the risk of tooth decay

Dry mouth increases the risk of tooth decay and decay along the gum line at the top of the root. This is because dentin (the inner layer of your tooth) is less resistant to acid than enamel (outer tooth layer) and can decay without enough saliva to protect it.

Causes of dry mouth

Dry mouth is more common in older patients, but age is not the only cause. Dry mouth is not a disease, but a side effect of an underlying condition. Causes can include:

  • Medications
  • Bacterial or viral infection in the salivary glands
  • Nerve damage
  • Salivary duct blockages
  • Dehydration caused by not drinking sufficient fluids

Treatment of dry mouth

Treating dry mouth involves identifying the underlying cause and then treating that condition. This may include changing your medication, eliminating an infection with antibiotics or clearing saliva ducts. Your dentist may also prescribe an artificial saliva substitute or special dry mouth oral care products including toothpaste, mouthwash, and topical gels for your gums, or high fluoride/calcium products to strengthen teeth and help prevent decay.

Things you can do to prevent dry mouth

Lifestyle changes can make a difference to how much saliva your mouth produces and how at risk your teeth are of decay. Some steps patients can take include:

  • Quitting smoking or using tobacco products
  • Lowering alcohol consumption
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks
  • Drinking plenty of water and adding more liquids to their diet

Patients with dry mouth should be extra diligent with their oral care routines.