How Dry Mouth Affects Oral Health
Your teeth’s best friend might not be your toothbrush.
Oh, sure, a toothbrush and a strand of floss wielded often and wisely will do wonders for your teeth. You should use both.
But your teeth’s first line of defense against what you put in your mouth is something that’s already there, Saliva. “Saliva is nature’s disinfecting cavity fighter,” Kimberly Harms, a dentist from Farmington, MN, says.
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that feeds on sugars from food and drinks. That bacteria — called plaque — can stick to your teeth, producing acids that eat through the enamel on your teeth. Saliva, that trusty old friend, helps rinse out your mouth and neutralize that process.
If you have a dry mouth, getting the same result could be tough. “The buffering effects of saliva, the ability of saliva to counter the bad effects of sugar,” says Howard Pollick, a San Francisco based dentist and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, “[means] if you don’t have enough saliva, [you have] a real problem.”
People who take lots of meds can be especially susceptible to dry mouth and possible tooth decay. Pollick says he carries sugar-free mints around with him. “That’s what I pop in my mouth when my mouth feels dry or I can’t get a snack and I want something,” Pollick says. “That’s what I recommend.”
Another good choice: Keep a bottle of WATER handy. It’ll do your teeth some good.