Six Serious Oral Health Issues Associated with Chronic Dry Mouth

Research published in the Australian Dental Journal suggests that approximately 1 in 5 people report some form of dry mouth, which is referred to medically as xerostomia. It refers to a condition in which the mouth is unable to produce a healthy flow of saliva. Despite the prevalence of the problem, not many people understand just how damaging it can be.

Here are just six possible oral health complications associated with xerostomia.

1. Tooth Decay

Firstly, xerostomia can significantly increase your chances of developing tooth decay. What a lot of people don't realize is that saliva is full of minerals and compounds that help work against plaque and bacteria – it also helps wash away food debris. Without a healthy flow of saliva, plaque and decay will be far more likely to occur since your teeth will lack one of their most vital defences.

2. Thrush

Thrush is an infection caused by bacteria known as candida fungus, which is a type of yeast. What most people don't know is that their mouth already harbours candida fungus – in fact, it's supposed to be there. However, it does need to be kept under control, and saliva bears plenty of responsibility since it contains compounds that help battle the growth of bacteria within the mouth. When there isn't enough saliva, a healthy balance of bacteria cannot be maintained, so oral thrush becomes more likely. This is problematic since thrust can then spread to other parts of your body, including the digestive tract, heart, and lungs. Even if this doesn't happen, you can expect a bad taste in your mouth and significant discomfort while chewing.

3. Tough Chewing

Most people have experienced first-hand how uncomfortable it can be to eat while their mouth is dry. For people who suffer from xerostomia, the problem becomes chronic. Saliva is necessary to help break down food and make it easier to swallow. When your mouth is dry, chewing tougher foods takes longer, and it creates much more wear across the surfaces of your teeth.

4. Acid Reflux

As mentioned above, saliva is necessary to help break down your food – many people forget that chewing is the first step of the digestive process. One role of saliva is to get into the food you chew up and be transported down into the stomach, where it helps neutralize stomach acid. Without enough saliva making it down into the stomach, you'll find yourself more likely to experience acid reflux. This is serious since chronic acid reflux can damage the oesophagus, possibly even causing oesophageal cancer. Stomach acids can also migrate up to the mouth, putting you at increased risk of tooth decay.

5. Mouth Sores

One of first things you're likely to notice when you suffer from dry mouth is a cracking of the skin around your lips. In fact, you've probably already experienced this after going some time without adequate hydration. If you suffer from chronic dry mouth, the inside of your mouth becomes just as hard to keep moist. Coupled with the increase of bacteria inside the mouth, this can lead to the growth of oral sores.

6. Bad Breath

Bad breath can be caused by several factors, including xerostomia. This is partly down to a lack of neutralizing acids making it easier for bacteria and plaque to form, and several of the problems mentioned above, such as acid reflux and oral thrust, can significant contribute to the problem. Additionally, saliva is necessary to wash away the dead cells that accumulate across the cheeks, gums, and tongue. Without enough saliva to remove them, those cells will start to decompose inside the mouth, causing unpleasant breath in the process.