It has probably never occurred to you what saliva is for and why we need it. However, saliva is needed for many of our daily functions, and without adequate saliva production, you are actually at risk for tooth decay.
Saliva is required to keep your mouth moist and to break down food as you chew. Along with aiding food digestion, saliva helps cleanse your mouth and neutralize harmful acids and bacteria that can eat away at your enamel, which is the outermost protective layer of your teeth. Lack of saliva creates an environment where fungi and bacteria can thrive, putting you at an increased risk of developing an infection.
On top of its necessity, saliva keeps your mouth comfortable. Otherwise, your mouth could end up feeling sticky or dry. It is common for a dry mouth to cause the sensation of feeling thirsty or dehydrated.
Your mouth should stay moist, otherwise, you can develop sores, cracked lips, or dry nasal or sinus cavities. It can even affect your sense of taste or your ability to chew or swallow. Another common symptom of dry mouth is bad breath. The lack of saliva increases the bacteria in your mouth, which causes bad breath.
What Are the Effects of Dry Mouth?
There’s no denying that dry mouth can be uncomfortable or at least an inconvenience, but it can create more problems if left untreated. Therefore, it is crucial to have a proper oral health routine to reduce its effects.
Dry mouth can increase your chances of developing tooth decay. Saliva contains elements that help neutralize acids and repair the earliest stages of tooth decay. The components found in saliva create a type of “biofilm” that coats the surfaces of your teeth and mouth to protect them from decay.
In addition, bacteria flourish in dry environments, so a lack of saliva creates an imbalance of the natural bacteria in your mouth. Even after you eat, saliva helps to wash away food particles and reduce the harm done to your teeth by sugars and acids.
Food particles are more likely to stay in your mouth if your mouth is dry. The longer food stays in your mouth, the more time it has to break down and form into acids. Typically, saliva will help to remove the food particles from your mouth and neutralize acids. However, that becomes difficult with a dry mouth. Inadequate saliva production can increase your risk of gum disease.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Numerous behaviors and elements can cause dry mouth. In addition, certain medical treatments and medications have dry mouth listed as a side effect. For example, medicines that treat depression, anxiety, allergies, acne, asthma, and more can all cause dry mouth. Chemotherapy and radiation are also known to create dry mouth.
Some lifestyle choices or behaviors can also be contributors to dry mouth. Smoking or chewing tobacco is directly related to dry mouth. Some popular drinks like wine and coffee can increase the feeling of dry mouth. Of course, breathing with your mouth open will create a dry mouth.