I always ask my patients if they are experiencing dry mouth. Many ask me why. Aside from many medical conditions that cause dry mouth, there are over 600 medications on the market today that have dry mouth as a possible side effect. Anyone experiencing dry mouth automatically becomes a patient that is at high risk for decay. This includes patients with impeccable home care, no active decay, and patients seen more frequently than every 6 months. How is this possible? Here’s why.
Saliva helps to keep the inside of the mouth lubricated. It helps us with chewing and swallowing and dissolves food so that our tongue can taste the food we eat. It also helps to break down starches and chemical digestion that starts in our mouths. When this occurs, the pH in our mouths becomes very acidic. Saliva buffers the acidity and prevents our mouths from staying an acidic environment.
When people have reduced saliva, the pH (acidity) levels stay high. When the acidity remains high for long periods of time, it weakens the enamel and ultimately, results in a cavity. It’s very frustrating for patients that are normally in good health to find out they have decay.
What can be done? There are many products on the market that help to reduce the symptoms of dry mouth. Biotene and other saliva substitutes help to lubricate the inside of your mouth. Products containing xylitol help stimulate salivary glands to make saliva. It also feeds good bacteria and starves the bad ones so it helps improve the overall health of your mouth. The key to preventing cavities is through the use of fluoride. Prescription fluoride toothpaste is a must. I also recommend that patients with dry mouth have a fluoride varnish treatment every time they are in the office.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, please speak up and let me know. If you have questions about the medications you are taking, review this with me the next time you are in. We will go over the list of what you are taking and make sure you are not at risk. I’m always here for you!