Did you know that saliva plays a large part in maintaining your oral health? It’s easy to take saliva for granted; for the better part of youth and adulthood, saliva is simply a natural part of life. Yet, as we enter into our senior years, the salivary glands (like many glands and organs in the human body) experience a marked decrease in function.
If you think saliva is just there to keep the mouth moist, you are in for quite a surprise. Proper saliva flow isn’t just necessary for lubricating the inner lining of the mouth, it’s also an essential part of maintaining oral health and proper digestion. Therefore, individuals with xerostomia (dry mouth) are at an increased risk of developing oral and digestive health complications.
What is Xerostomia?
Xerostomia is the medical term used to describe salivary gland hypofunction, which means the saliva-producing glands in the mouth are not secreting enough saliva to keep the mouth moist. As you likely guessed, one of the hallmark signs of xerostomia is the feeling that your mouth is frequently dry, making it difficult to swallow foods or medications.
What are the Causes of Xerostomia?
While ageing is one common factor that leads to reduced saliva output, xerostomia can also result from any of the following medications and factors:
• Muscle relaxants
• Appetite suppressants
• Pain medications
• Breathing through mouth at night
• Cancer treatments
Xerostomia is also a common side effect of many cancer treatments. If you are currently undergoing radiation treatments and chemotherapy, the Australian Dental Association offers a number of recommendations for maintaining your oral health during cancer treatment.
How Saliva Helps Your Oral and Overall Health
Surprising, saliva is more complex and useful than many of give it credit. Saliva is excreted from three different sets of salivary glands in the mouth, including the sublingual salivary glands (under the tongue), parotid salivary glands (near the temporomandibular joints), and the minor salivary glands.
While saliva is mostly water (no surprise there), it also contains a number of electrolytes that are essential to oral health. These electrolytes — phosphate, calcium, sodium, bicarbonate, and potassium — also help balance the pH of the mouth, which not only helps with digestion, but in preventing demineralization (erosion) of tooth enamel.
The salivary glands also produce proteins, enzymes, and immunoglobulins that help maintain oral health and assist in digestion of food.
Preventing Dry Mouth
If you are experiencing xerostomia, there are a number of options you can try, but you should also discuss these with your dentist or general physician, who will be able to evaluate your condition in person. Some of the best options in counteracting xerostomia and encouraging healthy saliva flow include:
• Staying hydrated
• Avoiding alcohol-containing mouth rinses
• Adding moistening agents to foods (broth, gravies, creams, etc.)
• Using products and medicines for xerostomia
If you breathe through your mouth at night, you may also want to mention this to your physician. Saliva production reaches its lowest point during sleep. Therefore, if you breathe through your mouth at night, you may be placing yourself at an increased risk of developing cavities and periodontal (gum) disease.
Schedule a Consultation at Eve Dental
Are you currently experiencing xerostomia? Contact Eve Dental to schedule an appointment. You can even book an appointment directly through our website. For your comfort and overall health, we look forward to discussing the treatment options available to help you counteract your xerostomia.Leave a reply →