Spit happens…and that’s a good thing.
Saliva (that moisture in your mouth) provides a multitude of benefits to help keep a healthy mouth. Besides moistening food, saliva also provides enzymes that help to start digestion. For dentists, saliva is a blessing because it contains components that prevent cavities. Healthy salivary flow prevents a whole mess of problems that we never really notice until the spit is gone.
Most dentists can roll off a list of patients who have experienced massive dental problems secondary to xerostomia (dry mouth). We dentists have all literally seen every tooth in someone’s mouth go bad in a span of months when their saliva dried up.
Kind of reminds me of our coastal pasture at the house right now.
There are a variety of issues that can cause dry mouth: radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments, systemic diseases, prescription and over the counter medications, loss of salivary output due to aging, obstructed salivary glands, and loss of salivary glands from various surgical treatments. The key to stopping dry mouth problems is to catch the lack of saliva early and begin aggressive preventative treatment as quickly as possible. Recognition and prevention are always key.
Treatment for xerostomia is multifaceted and depends on the cause of the dryness. Hydration, especially in these hot, dry times definitely helps. There are prescription medicines that can stimulate salivary flow. Regular cleanings and improved home care help to keep any type of plaque from building up and causing decay. Chewing sugar free gum, sweetened with xylitol if possible, can help to stimulate salivary flow and prevent bacteria from adhering to teeth. There are also sprays and rinses that can help to keep the mouth moist and cavity free. Fluoride treatments can be administered in the dental office and in take home trays to keep decay at bay. The best treatment is to do as much as possible to keep rampant decay at bay.
Unfortunately, there is rarely a cure for xerostomia. It is often a lifelong battle to keep cavities away once the dryness sets in. Removing teeth and placing dentures is an option, but the dry mouth can often cause a variety of other problems for people without teeth. As with any disease, xerostomia is best treated if caught early and monitored closely. If your mouth is often dry, discuss your options with your dentist as soon as possible. Don’t let dry mouth catch up to you.
Until next week, keep smiling.
-Please send comments and questions to Drs. Parrish at www.ParrishDental.com.