Two Common Oral Health Problems
Dry mouth and bad breath are two common oral health problems that many adults experience at one point or another. Sometimes these symptoms are mild and only linger for a few weeks, but this isn’t always the case. Chronic dry mouth and chronic bad breath can negatively impact your life, making you uncomfortable and lacking confidence in your smile.
Here’s what you should know about these two oral health conditions.
What is dry mouth, and why does it happen?
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a chronic oral condition that happens when a person cannot produce a normal amount of saliva. It isn’t uncommon to experience temporary dry mouth from mild dehydration or as a response to a stressful event, but something is wrong when dry mouth occurs more often than it isn’t.
Chronic dry mouth typically leads to symptoms like:
- Sticky feeling in the mouth
- Very thick saliva
- Trouble chewing, swallowing, and speaking
- Chronic dry, sore throat
- Grooves on the tongue
- Unexplained changes in taste
- Chronic bad breath
Xerostomia is typically a side effect or symptom of something else going on in your oral microbiome. It’s more likely to occur if you’re:
- Taking a medication known to cause xerostomia, such as antidepressants, muscle relaxers, or diuretics
- Undiagnosed sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing
- Receiving radiation or chemotherapy
- Living with a systemic disease, like diabetes or Parkinson’s
- Experiencing nerve damage around the head or neck after injury or surgery
- A habitual smoker, tobacco user, or frequently drink alcohol
Although rare, there are saliva gland disorders that directly target saliva production. Sjogren’s syndrome is an example of a systemic disease that zaps moisture from the body, particularly the mouth and eyes.
What about bad breath?
Bad breath, also called halitosis, shares some similarities to dry mouth. It’s common to have less-than-fresh breath every now and then, but your body is telling you something’s wrong when bad breath becomes a normal condition.
Halitosis is a symptom rather than a disease. It can occur for several reasons and often develops in people with chronic dry mouth. These two oral health conditions often accompany one another because a lack of saliva production increases plaque build-up and harmful bacteria growth. As a result, breath typically takes a stubborn foul odor, despite frequent brushing with the most intense minty-fresh products.
In addition to xerostomia, these risk factors often cause bad breath:
- Excessive plaque build-up on the teeth
- Untreated gingivitis or gum disease
- Frequent digestion issues, like acid reflux
- Diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease
The most frequent cause of bad breath in an otherwise healthy adult is a combination of poor oral hygiene, plaque build-up, and some level of gum disease.
Do I need to see my dentist if I have dry mouth or bad breath?
It’s always a good idea to inform your dentist of any changes to your oral health.
A significant part of achieving and maintaining optimal oral health is preventive care. Taking great care of your teeth at home and seeing your dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning is just one factor. The second factor is proactively sharing any unusual changes with your dentist.
If you’re just beginning to develop dry mouth or bad breath, you can first take mental stock of your lifestyle habits. Can you link your new symptoms to any recent changes? For example, you might have started a new medication and are now experiencing a dry mouth. Or maybe you haven’t been brushing well lately, and now your morning breath lingers.
Your dentist can help you determine what might be causing your symptoms and offer guidance on treating your problem in-office, at home, or a combination of both.
How can I cure my bad breath or dry mouth?
Most cases of halitosis and xerostomia are cured by alleviating the immediate symptoms while treating the underlying cause. Even if the underlying cause can’t be entirely stopped, such as in the case of necessary medication or disease, the symptoms can still be treated, so you feel comfortable.
Here are a few ways to treat dry mouth and chronic bad breath.
Cures for Dry Mouth
- Switch to a different medication with your doctor’s approval and recommendation.
- Use OTC or professional oral care products to stimulate or mimic saliva production.
- Sip on fresh water throughout the day and avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Chew xylitol gum during the day and after meals to stimulate saliva.
- Consider stopping your tobacco and alcohol use habits.
- Use a humidifier in your home and especially in your bedroom at night.
Cures for Bad Breath
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes, and consider brushing again after meals, especially if heavily seasoned or garlicky.
- Floss with string floss around each tooth, up to the gums, at least once a day.
- Add a tongue scraper to your routine if you don’t have one already.
- See your dentist at least every six months for a cleaning, or more frequently if you’re prone to plaque development.
- Be cautious of early warning signs of gum disease, like swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, and inform your dentist immediately.
- Don’t postpone necessary dental care, especially if you have a decayed tooth or active gum disease.
Get relief from bad breath and dry mouth with Dr. Monroe’s help.
Monroe Family Dentistry is your destination if you’re looking for a gentle, compassionate dentist near Greenville, SC. Dr. Monroe will get to the bottom of your struggle with bad breath and dry mouth and create a treatment program focusing on quick relief and lasting results.
Schedule your appointment today via phone or by booking online.