Dry mouth might seem like a small problem, but it can have big consequences for your oral health that go far beyond cracked lips and bad breath. While dry mouth has many underlying causes, there are also a number of potential solutions to help keep your mouth healthy and your breath fresh. Here’s what you should know.
The Impact of Dry Mouth on Oral Health
The most common complaint that brings patients to our office for dry mouth is bad breath. While many of us wake up in the morning with “cotton mouth” or experience bad breath on occasion, when you feel like you always have it, it can make you self-conscious and embarrassed to be close to others.
Saliva plays an important role in cleansing your mouth throughout the day. It rinses away food debris and bacteria between brushing to keep your teeth healthy. When your mouth is dry and there isn’t enough saliva to perform this function, the food particles and bacteria begin to accumulate, causing bad breath.
If you have chronic dry mouth, this food and bacteria forms plaque; plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed at the dentist’s office with a professional dental cleaning. Plaque and tartar buildup causes tooth decay and can also lead to gum disease—and gum disease can have devastating effects not just on your oral health, but also your cardiovascular health.
This is why dry mouth is not a minor inconvenience or irritation—it can be serious. If you feel like your mouth is dry more often than not, please let us know during your next dental appointment.
Reasons for Dry Mouth
One of the ways we treat dry mouth is by determining its underlying cause. There are many reasons why patients might have dry mouth—some are easy to remedy, while others are not. The most common causes are:
- Alcohol and caffeine intake
- Mouth breathing (often caused by allergies or sinus issues)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Radiation therapy
If you’re not sure what the cause of your dry mouth is, odds are that it’s dehydration. A surprising number of people don’t get the fluids they need throughout the day to stay hydrated.
Dry Mouth Remedies
Naturally, staying hydrated is one of the most effective ways to relieve dry mouth symptoms. Keep a glass or bottle of water with you and sip from it throughout the day. Remember that caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee, and energy drinks ultimately cause dehydration—they’re no substitute for water.
If you smoke, stop. If you use a mouthwash with alcohol in it, switch to an alcohol-free version or a mouthwash formulated specifically for people with dry mouth. When you’re unable to sip on water, use sugar-free lozenges or gum to stimulate saliva production.
While these simple home remedies for dry mouth help improve symptoms for most patients, in some cases dry mouth persists. If you’re continuing to have issues with bad breath and dry mouth, we can prescribe artificial saliva products or medications that will help increase saliva production. Because dry mouth can sometimes be a sign of a serious medical issue, you may wish to see your primary care physician for an assessment as well.