Saliva offers a buffer to protect teeth from acidic attack by our diet and plaque bacteria. It also acts as a reservoir for calcium and phosphate ions which help to remineralize tooth structures more susceptible to decay. When an individual suffers from dry mouth (xerostomia) this buffer is gone. As a result, demineralization is more easily initiated due to diet and bacteria leading to increased decay rate.
Dry mouth can occur for a variety of reasons including autoimmune disease, patients post head/neck radiation, post-menopausal women and tobacco users. Those using certain medications are also at an increased risk for dry mouth. Medications commonly prescribed for anxiety, depression and even allergies can lead to increased risk of developing xerostomia.
If you’re suffering from dry mouth, there are things you should keep in mind when managing your symptoms. First and foremost, do not depend on hard candies/gums containing sugar or drinks containing sugar to moisten your mouth. That includes juices, sports drinks and (in some cases) vitamin water. Plain old water is a better option. There are also OTC products by Biotene we often recommend for management dry mouth. They offer products including mouth rinse, toothpaste, gum, gels… Take a look at a local dental care aisle and see what works best for you. Lastly, we recommend prescription fluoride toothpaste. We offer a prescription toothpaste, Prevident 5000 Dry Mouth by Colgate, to our patients. This paste has 1.1% sodium fluoride to support the remineralization process and keep tooth structures as strong and resistant to decay as possible.
Low salivary flow does not have to doom you to a future of fillings, crowns and related problems. With diligent homecare, regular visits to your dental professional and management of symptoms you can keep your mouth healthy for years to come.
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