Dry Mouth And Cavities: How Are They Related?

by | May 20, 2022

Most people occasionally get a dry mouth, but a recurring condition can lead to long-term dental damage. We need saliva to moisten our mouths and digest food. Saliva also controls oral bacteria and fungi, preventing infection. 

If you don’t make enough saliva, not only will your mouth feel uncomfortably dry, but you’ll also be at a greater risk for gum disease (Gingivitis). Also, if left untreated, this chronic widespread problem can lead to dry mouth and cavities, which are more commonly related than a person might think. This may require the demand for extensive repair and even extraction to fix the damage.

What Is Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth is a condition in which your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to moisten the mouth. When your teeth feel dry, it’s often a byproduct of aging issues, certain medications, or radiation therapy when treating cancer. Less often, the condition occurs because of a problem with the salivary glands themselves.

Saliva is important because it limits bacterial growth by neutralizing acids and washing away food particles, preventing tooth decay. It also makes it easier to swallow food and enhances your ability to taste. In addition, saliva contains enzymes that help digest food in the stomach. 

A lack of saliva can be as simple as a nuisance or as substantial as an influencing factor on your oral health. Treating dry mouth depends on what causes it.

Symptoms And Causes Of Dry Mouth And Cavities

If your mouth does not produce enough saliva, you may notice the following symptoms of dry mouth: 

  • Dryness or stickiness in the mouth 
  • Bad breath 
  • Thick and stringy saliva 
  • Dry or grooved tongue 
  • Dry or sore throat with hoarseness 
  • Difficulty speaking, chewing, and swallowing 
  • Problems wearing dentures 
  • A changed sense of taste 
  • Lipstick sticking to the teeth 

Causes Of Dry Mouth And Cavities 

  • The side effect of medications: Sometimes, dry mouth occurs as a result of using any number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including those used to treat allergies, colds, pain, anxiety, acne, epilepsy, diarrhea, psychotic disorders, and Parkinson’s. 
  • The side effect of infection or disease: Dry mouth may also occur as a side effect of certain medical conditions, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, stroke, and hypertension. 
  • Nerve damage: Nerve damage in the head and neck area due to injury or surgery can also lead to dry mouth. 
  • Dehydration: Conditions that result in dehydration, including vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and fever, can lead to dry mouth. 
  • Surgical removal of salivary glands: Without salivary glands, you cannot produce saliva. 
  • Lifestyle: Smoking affects how much saliva you make and can worsen dry mouth. Frequently breathing with your mouth open can also dry the region. 

Gingivitis Dry Mouth And Dental Damage

An underlying issue like cavities or diabetes could be at play when dry mouth happens regularly.

Experiencing occasional dry mouth isn’t usually a cause for alarm, but chronic dry mouth can lead to severe dental damage, including tooth decay and loss. However, general dentistry treatments can help protect your gums and teeth from chronic dry mouth.

Saliva is important to oral hygiene because it provides a natural defense against acid erosion, bacterial growth, and tooth decay. It neutralizes acids in your mouth, washes away food debris, and restores the enamel’s minerals. Dry mouth that recurs frequently increases the risk of damage, which may include: 

  • Tooth decay: There’s a greater risk of tooth decay with dry mouth because food debris and acid remain on the teeth without saliva to wash it away. 
  • Gum disease: Dry mouth also makes gum disease more likely. The worse gum disease gets, it may form pockets between the teeth and gums, allowing bacteria and plaque to reach beneath the gum line. When bacteria can reach this far, there is an increased risk of tooth decay and loss. 
  • Enamel erosion: Dry mouth leaves behind acid on the teeth, leading to enamel erosion. Without treatment, eroded enamel can lead to cavities and root canal infections. 
  • Dental stains: Yellowing and dental stains can occur when enamel erodes and saliva doesn’t wash away food debris. 

Can Dry Mouth Cause Cavities?

Dry mouth increases the risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and infections like thrush. It can also make it difficult to wear dentures.

Cavities are another serious risk caused by tooth decay when the tooth takes damage from plaque that doesn’t get washed away. Plaque contains acid that eats away at your teeth and erodes the enamel, leading to holes called cavities. 

Dry mouth increases the likelihood that you’ll develop cavities since saliva’s primary function is to wash away the acid and food debris left after a meal. Saliva contains enzymes that break down food and keep it from sticking to your teeth. It also contains calcium, bicarbonate, and phosphate to neutralize acidity.

Treating Dry Mouth And Cavities 

Your doctor may be able to prescribe an oral rinse if your dry mouth is due to medication you can’t stop taking. There are also kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes designed to combat dry mouth. If these don’t help, a dentist can prescribe medication that promotes saliva production. 

There are also new treatments studied all the time. Asking your doctor or dentist for more information can help you learn more about what your options are. 

Gardens Family Dentistry is committed to providing the highest quality dental care in a warm and compassionate environment. Our staff enjoys getting to know each patient and their families, and we love creating long-lasting relationships that last through the generations. 

Contact Us Today

At Gardens Family Dentistry, in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, we believe in providing optimal treatment and understand that our patients are different. That’s the reason we customize all of our treatment plans for each family’s expectations. So contact us today to find out how we can help you find a beautiful smile!