Can Dry Mouth Lead To Gum Disease?

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is an unpleasant condition where insufficient saliva is produced to keep the mouth moist and comfortable. It can be due to several different reasons, as it can be a side-effect of existing health conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease,or Alzheimer’s, or it can be due to tobacco use, and some cancer treatments can permanently damage the salivary glands, reducing saliva production.

Sometimes it can be down to medication, as certain drugs, especially those used to treat depression and anxiety, or to treat Parkinson’s disease or medication for high blood pressure, can create dry mouth as a side-effect. Xerostomia can also be as a result of nerve damage to the head and neck area. Older people are also more likely to suffer from dry mouth, not because aging is a risk factor for this condition, but because they are more likely to suffer from health conditions which may cause dry mouth, and are more likely to be on medication that can exacerbate the condition.

The trouble is that a lack of saliva is not only uncomfortable, but can also increase the risk of periodontal disease. This is because saliva is the mouths best protection against washing away plaque bacteria, and anyone suffering from xerostomia needs to take extra care of their oral health. Obviously it’s essential to pay extra care to daily oral health, but people suffering from this condition should also visit the dentist for a thorough checkup and cleaning at least twice annually or more frequently if recommended.

Although an unpleasant condition, there are various methods of helping increase the flow of saliva. There are a number of products available over-the-counter in the form of either a rinse or spray, as well as moisturising gels, mouthwashes and toothpaste specially formulated for this condition. There are also prescription drugs available to treat dry mouth, and these can help increase the natural production of saliva.

Anyone suffering from dry mouth can help themselves by making sure they drink plenty of water and stay properly hydrated. It can also be helpful to suck sugar free lozenges or gum to help stimulate the flow of saliva. Other things which can help are choosing moist foods and foods which are cool or room temperature.

Avoiding sugary foods and drink will help, as will avoiding salty foods, or dry foods which can be difficult to chew and swallow properly. Alcoholic drinks should be kept to a minimum, as they can increase the risk of dehydration, as can drinks containing high amounts of caffeine. Acidic beverages should be drunk with caution, as they can increase the risk of tooth decay. Smokers should try to quit, especially as this habit already increases the risk of gum disease.

Suffering from xerostomia doesn’t necessarily mean someone will go on to develop gum disease, but merely that the risk is heightened. With extra precautions the risk can be kept to a minimum, while keeping you more comfortable.

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3 Responses to “Can Dry Mouth Lead To Gum Disease?”

  1. I feel like hydration is such a large part of helping this problem. It is easy to get carried away with work or daily activities and realize all day went by without drinking water.

  2. Doris Storlien says:

    I use oxygen at night and was also told that the use of oxygen could cause dry mouth. Never had any problem before I started using oxygen. I drink adequate water during the day. The Dr. recommended a mouth rinse made just for dry mouth, and it really helps.

  3. Great article, so very true that dry mouth leads to gum disease and tooth decay.

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