Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is an uncomfortable condition which contributes to tooth decay. Your saliva acts as as pH buffer and keeps your mouth wet. When you have dry mouth, the saliva goes away, the plaque gets stickier and it's more difficult to keep things clean, according to Dr. Stuart Rich, a dentist in Auburn, Washington.
When one has dry mouth, the acids have a better chance of attacking the dry enamel, which will them become more porous and start to dissolve away. There are many causes of dry mouth, which can be as simple as dehydration. There are medications that can make your mouth feel dry, such as anti-anxiety or depression medications, antihistamines, decongestants and muscle relaxants. Older people seem to suffer more from dry mouth as they are typically on more medications.
There are also medical conditions that are associated with dry mouth, such as chemotherapy for cancer treatments. Radiation in the neck or head area can permanently damage the saliva. For those patients undergoing such treatments, Dr. Rich says that they should inform their dentist that this will be happening so they can advise them on ways to protect their teeth, such as prescription-strength fluorides or gels. Custom-made mouth guards can also be used to house the gel and worn for 30 minutes a day to help strengthen the teeth.
Auto-immune diseases can also reduce saliva flow. Dr. Rich says that if you notice your eyes are dry and itchy and weren't previously and your mouth is dry, you should have your physician do a test for a possible cause.
Dr. Rich has seen significant damage from dry mouth conditions, equating it almost to those who abuse amphetamines. He says it's important to brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss at least once a day and avoid things that are acidic by nature if you have a dry mouth. Using a prescription-strength toothpaste is also helpful. By the time a patient starts noticing symptoms, it's often pretty far-along, he says.
Dr. Stuart Rich is a dentist with Sleep Solutions Northwest in Auburn, Washington. He is a leading sleep expert with Sleep Better TV, providing online, sleep disorder breathing video content and is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.