Here’s an aspect of good dental hygiene most of us don’t usually think about: spit.
Yes, amongst other things, saliva helps keep your teeth healthy. For one, it acts as a perpetual bath for your teeth, helping to wash away food particles and the oral microbes that make up dental biofilm (plaque). And according to the current Mayo Clinic Health Letter, it also serves as a source of calcium and phosphate particles that help strengthen tooth enamel.
Dry mouth thus becomes another potential contributor to tooth erosion and decay.
Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon condition, especially in these days of heavy use of prescription medications, many of which cause dry mouth as a so-called “side effect.” (In our opinion, if the drug made it happen, it’s a direct effect – just one that isn’t desired.) Common offenders mentioned in the above article include
some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, antihistamines, medications for high blood pressure, anti-diarrheals, muscle relaxants and medications for urinary incontinence and Parkinson’s disease.
Dry mouth can also be caused by some medical conditions.
So what can you do to increase saliva flow naturally? Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum can help, though we don’t recommend doing so frequently, due to the pressure chronic gum-chewing puts on the teeth and jaws. It can, however, serve as a temporary, occasional fix.
A better way is to drink more water, sipping throughout the day and also during meals. Increasing your intake of foods that require a good amount of chewing can also help – especially foods such as crisp vegetables and fruits. And, of course, good dental hygiene – brushing and flossing regularly and correctly – also helps promote proper salivation.
If these things don’t work, there are some products that can help, such as GC Dry Mouth Gel – an alcohol- and sugar-free gel that you apply directly to the teeth and gums to stimulate saliva flow. Herbal tooth preparations such as the Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums or Tooth and Gums Tonic may also prove helpful.
If dry mouth is a problem for you, do ask your dentist for his or her recommendations. For your dentist is in the best position to pinpoint probable causes of your dry mouth symptoms and thus suggest the optimal ways of dealing with them.