Can dry mouth lead to cavities?

dentist CharlottesvilleDo you have persistent dry mouth? Medically known as xerostomia, persistent dry mouth can increase your risk for oral health conditions like periodontal disease and cavities. This is because saliva is an important part of keeping the oral cavity clean and moist. Soft oral tissue requires moisture and saliva helps rinse away food particles and dilute acid. If saliva production is diminished due to medical conditions or medication, it is especially important that patients see their dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings and alert their oral health care provider of new symptoms as soon as possible. Taking a proactive approach to one’s oral well-being can prevent the progression of negative effects associated with chronic dry mouth.

What could affect saliva production?

A host of common medical conditions can affect saliva production. For instance, diabetes is a common culprit behind dry mouth. Certain medications like antihistamines or antidepressants can also decrease saliva production.

Why is saliva important?

We might associate saliva with spit but the truth is that saliva is more important than we realize. Instead of just associating saliva with spit, we might be better off as thinking of saliva as nature’s first defense against oral bacteria and acid. Since saliva can help rinse food debris away, it prevents bacteria from feeding on sugar particles. Additionally, saliva dilutes acid, which is important for maintaining a healthy oral pH. An acidic oral environment is bad for one’s oral health because bacteria can flourish and acid weakens teeth by eroding tooth enamel.

What can be done about dry mouth?

If you have dry mouth, it is important to discuss this symptom with your dentist as it can coincide with certain medical and oral health issues. To help protect your teeth and gums, your oral health care provider might recommend that you reduce sodium intake, increase water consumption, and maintain a vigilant oral hygiene routine. Sometimes, oral rinses can be used to help hydrate the mouth, too.

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