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Having A Dry Mouth Opens Door To Gum Disease

When you think about an ideal environment for bacterial growth, you’d assume it’s one where it’s dark, moist and warm. Right?

That’s pretty much the case, which describes the conditions of the mouth. Then, why would having a dry mouth, known clinically as xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh), lead to the development of periodontal (gum) disease?

First, let’s agree that every mouth has a certain level of bacteria. Even a mouth that is free of gum disease, cavities and plaque has oral bacteria. What keeps these bacterial levels from getting quickly out of control, however, is saliva flow.

Saliva is the mouth’s natural rinsing agent. When saliva is flowing sufficiently, it moves bacteria out of the oral cavity on a continual basis. This helps to move food particles out of the mouth and prevents the accumulation of bacteria.

Saliva is actually the initial part of the digestive process. Its enzymes help to break down food as you chew. Saliva also makes chewing and swallowing easier and enhances your ability to taste.

Xerostomia occurs when the salivary glands don’t produce adequate saliva. While dry mouth may be caused by a condition of the salivary glands, it is more often due to side effects of certain medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), aging, smoking or a wide range of health conditions.

Dry mouth can be a symptom of respiratory problems (such as sinus conditions), mouth breathing (including snoring), diabetes, anemia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, Sjögren’s syndrome, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and mumps. Additionally, dry mouth is typical for those undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, it can lead to gum disease. By allowing oral bacteria to accumulate in the mouth, they are able to reproduce more rapidly. The more bacteria in the mouth, the more rapidly they double, triple and quadruple in mass.

There are certain ways you can overcome the risks to your oral health caused by having a dry mouth. First, review your oral hygiene routine at home. Twice daily brushing and flossing is necessary to keep bacteria under control.

If you take a medication that has a side effect of oral dryness, ask your doctor if there are alternatives. Or, replenish oral moisture on a daily basis with the aid of an over-the-counter mouth wash. When selecting one, be sure to check the ingredients to avoid those containing alcohol.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Also, limit foods and drinks that contain caffeine, including coffee, tea and chocolate as well as drinks that contain alcohol.

A bonus to your oral health by combating dry mouth is fresher breath! A mouth that is moist and controlled of bacteria will make you more confident when being close with others.

While it has been said that the eyes are the window to the soul, it has also been said that the mouth is the mirror to the body (a quote by Sir William Osler, a turn-of-the-century Canadian physician still revered today for his insight).  Research shows that your overall health has a direct correlation to your oral health. The bacteria of gum disease has been linked to serious health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and some cancers.

You can lower your risk for cavities, gum disease and other serious health conditions when you are committed to good oral health, which includes avoiding a dry mouth! Call 219-987-5733 if you have questions or need to schedule an examination appointment.