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What Is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a condition in which your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva. While we may not consider its importance, saliva is essential for good oral health. Saliva helps neutralize bad bacteria and keep your mouth moist. This is because your mouth needs to stay moist to be healthy. Otherwise, harmful bacteria can multiply and thrive. 

Without enough saliva, you can develop serious dental issues. At the very least, it is a condition that can cause discomfort. It can feel like you are constantly dehydrated or thirsty even if you drink a lot of water. Over time, the discomfort can turn into something much more serious. Therefore, it is best for your dentist at West Ashley Family Dentistry to treat dry mouth when you notice it is a constant or chronic problem. 

Woman drinking a glass of water in athletic top dry mouth xerostomia general dentistry dentist in Charleston North Carolina

Effects of Dry Mouth

It is important to treat dry mouth because it can have negative effects on your oral health. 

Tooth Decay

People who have dry mouth are more likely to develop tooth decay. This is because the bacteria in your mouth thrive in a dry environment. They are more likely to multiply, which can damage your teeth. The bacteria in question is called plaque. When you brush your teeth, your goal is to remove as much plaque as possible. Plaque builds on your teeth, damaging your enamel. Unfortunately, this is how cavities begin to form

If your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, your mouth will produce more plaque. An increase in plaque raises your risk of developing tooth decay. 

Gum Disease

Along with tooth decay, you have a higher chance of developing gum disease with dry mouth. The soft tissues of the gums are sensitive to bacteria growth. In fact, one of the most common causes of gum disease is plaque buildup. The plaque will build along the gum line, causing irritation. Initially, the gums will become inflamed and possibly bleed. As gum disease advances, your gums will begin to recede. Unfortunately, this creates a domino effect. Plaque buildup causes the gums to recede, which leaves more room for plaque to build up. 

When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, you have an increased chance of developing gum disease. 

Bad Breath

Another side effect of dry mouth is bad breath. This is due to the increase in bacteria in your mouth. 

What Causes Dry Mouth?

One of the more common causes of dry mouth is medication. If you read the warning labels of some medications, it describes a risk of dry mouth. For example, many drugs that treat anxiety, depression, or psychotic disorders can cause your mouth to dry. Additionally, antihistamines or decongestants can cause a similar effect. There are other medications that can cause this condition. 

As we age, our mouths can naturally begin to produce less saliva. It is not a product of anything that you’ve changed or the medication you’ve taken. However, some medications that are necessary for an aging population carry dry mouth as a side effect. As a result, there can be more than one reason why you have dry mouth. 

Finally, smoking or chewing tobacco can limit your saliva production, causing dry mouth.