Could “Cotton Mouth” Cost You Your Teeth?

A link between dry mouth and gum disease?When it comes to caring for your teeth, it seems that there’s a good deal of misinformation out there. Take the commonly held belief that losing teeth is perfectly natural, an unavoidable effect of growing older. Not even close, says Dr. Ryan Hussong, a general dentist who diagnoses and treats periodontal disease in Polk City, IA. Your teeth are designed to live as long as you do, but they can do so only when properly cared for in your lifetime. Gum disease, which affects millions of men and women, is a severe infection that wreaks havoc on the bones and connective tissues holding your teeth in place. When these tissues are destroyed, your teeth loosen and eventually fall out, creating the need for dentures, dental implants, or bridges.

How Can I Tell if I Have Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease doesn’t just happen overnight. The most commonly reported symptoms linked to the condition include:

  • Tender, red gums that appear puffy and inflamed
  • Gum tissue that bleeds when you brush or floss
  • Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste that remains after brushing and flossing
  • Teeth that appear to have grown longer or more widely apart
  • Teeth that are loose or fall out

What Does Dry Mouth Have to Do with Gum Disease?

Saliva is more than just “spit.” It’s your mouth’s all-natural form of mouthwash. Saliva contains enzymes that help break down food before you swallow it, and it flushes away food left in your mouth after eating. Without saliva, bits of food and bacteria would remain in your mouth and begin forming plaque, a smelly, sticking coating that clings to the surface of teeth and irritates gum tissue. Dr. Hussong cites the dreaded “morning breath” as an example. Your salivary glands are less active while you sleep, allowing bacteria to proliferate overnight. This explains the unpleasant odor that awakens you each morning—more so if you didn’t brush and floss properly before bedtime.

How Can I Find Relief from Dry Mouth?

Although you can’t always prevent dry mouth, you have several options to make the problem more manageable. Dr. Hussong recommends using over-the-counter saliva substitutes, available as sprays, mouth rinse, or liquid at most drugstores. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on sugar-free candy stimulates your mouth to produce more saliva. Again, emphasis on the sugar-free. You can also sip water throughout the day to keep mouth tissues hydrated, and we advise against drinking beverages that are caffeinated, highly acidic, or loaded with sugar. If dry mouth makes chewing and swallowing difficult, sip water or milk between bites at each meal.

Questions about preventing periodontal disease in Polk City, IA? To learn more about gum disease and its treatment, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental Group at (515) 984-6001. We welcome patients living in Ankeny, Grimes, Alleman, Ames, West Des Moines, and surrounding areas.

2 Responses to “Could “Cotton Mouth” Cost You Your Teeth?”

    • Ryan Hussong

      Dry mouth can be the result of medication or even chronic illness. Not drinking enough water can also lead to dry mouth. If you think medication may be the cause, then see your doctor right away.