Improving Your Dental Care

How A Lack Of Saliva Affects Your Gum Health

If your mouth feels overly dry all the time, you may actually be suffering from a condition known as xerostomia, or dry mouth. Besides decreasing saliva production, dry mouth can cause bad breath, changes in taste, and swallowing difficulties. Take a look at why this condition might be happening, how it affects your gum health, and how to treat the issue.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

There can be many causes of dry mouth. Salivary production naturally decreases with age, so dry mouth can be a normal occurrence for people in their senior years.

However, dry mouth can also be in indicator for a disease, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, an autoimmune issue, etc. Some medications or therapies—like radiation therapy for cancer—can cause dry mouth as a side effect.

Lastly, if you snore or suffer from sleep apnea, you may develop dry mouth from breathing through your mouth rather than your nose.

How Does Dry Mouth Affect Your Gum Health?

Saliva helps to prevent plaque from forming since it neutralizes acids in food and helps to wash away food debris after you eat. Saliva also contains antimicrobial elements that can combat oral bacteria. If you suffer from dry mouth, then your oral health can suffer since it'll be easier for plaque to build up.

People with dry mouth can be more prone to cavities and more prone to gingivitis—an inflammatory condition of the gums due to a buildup of bacteria. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, or gum disease, which can cause infection, jawbone loss, and tooth loss.

How Can You Fix the Problem?

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to cure, or at least manage, dry mouth. For example, if your dentist says that you have very mild dry mouth, you may be able to manage the condition by avoiding dehydrating foods, such as sugary snacks, caffeinated beverages, or alcohol.

Drinking more water can help reduce dry mouth. The ADA says that the physical act of chewing can increase salivary flow, so if you want to improve dry mouth, you might want to start chewing more sugar-free gum.

If your dry mouth is a side effect of medication, you and your dentist may want to discuss alternative treatments if that's possible.

What Should You Do if Dry Mouth Has Already Affected Your Gums?

If you already are suffering the ill effects of dry mouth and have deep gum pockets, you may want to consider a deep cleaning at a periodontist's office. Periodontists are dentists who specialize in gum health.

A periodontist may recommend scaling and root planing. During this deep cleaning, your periodontist will numb your gums with a local anesthetic, so while you may be a little sore after this appointment, you shouldn't experience pain.

He or she will then scale or remove hardened plaque above and below your gum line. He or she will smooth out your tooth roots (root planing) which will encourage large gum pockets to decrease and help your gums reattach firmly around your teeth. He or she then may place an antimicrobial treatment—like antibiotic microspheres—in your gum pockets which can slowly release over time. These antibiotic microspheres can help your gums heal long after your in-office cleaning is done.

Reach out to periodontist services in your area to learn more about how to reduce dry mouth and how to treat any gingivitis or gum disease.