One of the main functions of saliva is to help cleanse the mouth: it will help minimise the amount of bacteria, debris, excess mucous, etc. A mouth that tends to get dry is a lot more likely to produce foul-smelling odours, hence bad breath.
In addition, saliva also washes away acid from plaque, off our teeth, and it also neutralises it. Phosphate salts and calcium can help remineralise the enamel, and this helps prevent decay and tooth sensitivity.
Apart from bad breath, a chronic dry mouth results in severe tooth decay and gum disease. Click here for a list of symptoms and causes of xerostomia (dry mouth).
How to treat dry mouth, acidity and dental decay:
- Good oral hygiene regime: brush your teeth, brush and scrape your tongue, and floss after each main meal.
- Professional Checks: see your dentist and dental hygienist at least every 6 months.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: even though fluoride has caused a lot of controversy, as long as you don’t swallow it, you are safe. Fluoride has been shown to help saliva protect enamel, making it acid-resistant, and also inhibiting bacteria.
- Drink a lot of water: drink at least 1 litre of water a day. Take a bottle with you at work if necessary, and keep it next to you at all times. Take small sips often, throughout the whole day.
- Use Xylitol gums: sugarless gum, mints or any other snacks containing xylitol are very good to stimulate saliva production and they also prevent tooth decay.
- Use a Dry Mouth Rinse: they contain special enzimes and moisturising agents which help keep saliva at optimium levels. Some of the major brands also contain xylitol, which is also beneficial to treat dry mouth, acidity and dental decay, as explained above.
- Avoid carbonated drinks (sodas) and energy /sports drinks: These are all extremely acidic. Fruit juices are also quite acidic, but you can buy some which are fortified with calcium, which will help prevent tooth damage.
- Avoid drinking coffee and alcoholic beverages: any drinks containing caffeine can dry out the mouth, so it is best to avoid them. Alcohol can also dehydrate you extremely quickly, so drink in moderation or quit altogether.
- Consult your doctor if you are taking medication: certain medicines can cause dry mouth as a side effect. For instance, first-generation antihistamines. Ask your family doctor if there are alternatives to the medication you are taking which does not have dry mouth as a side effect.
- Breath through your nose: unless you have blocked sinuses, try to always breath through your nose, as breathing through the mouth can make your mouth dry very quickly.
- Use a room humidifier: our houses, particularly at winter – when the heating is on – can be very dry environments, which can contribute to dry mouth (mainly at night, when we tend to sleep with our mouths open too). Using a room humidifer can help moisturise the air and hence our mouths too.
These are the most important steps you can take to prevent and treat dry mouth, acidity and dental decay. If you follow these recommendations, not only will you increase your salivary flow, but you will also minimise the severity of your bad breath.
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