Your mouth feels like a desert. No matter what you do, you can’t shake it. You’ve tried sipping on water. You’ve tried gum. What else is there? Thankfully, there’s plenty you haven’t tried. Since dry mouth can cause a lot of other serious health problems, it’s not something you want to shrug off. How serious? Well, it could eventually lead to a heart attack. A heart attack? Yes.
Here’s how: first, your mouth dries out. This causes pathogenic bacteria to take hold. Those bacteria then release acid in your mouth that erode the protective layer of enamel covering your teeth. From there, plaque can attack to the tooth surface, working its way down to the gum line.
Once there, the plaque separates the tooth from the gum line, loosening the tooth and potentially damaging the jawbone. Once the bacteria have finished off your mouth, they work their way into your bloodstream where they interact with your body’s immune system – causing it to release clotting factors. It’s those clotting factors that can cause a heart attack.
But, you don’t have to wait until you’re laid up in a hospital bed, half dead, to do something about it. This is a beatable condition. Here’s what you need to do.
Skip Certain Drinks
Some drinks, like alcoholic ones, dry out the mouth. Caffeine can do this too as can carbonated drinks. It’s best to avoid everything that has a drying effect, even if it’s a mild one. That means no soda, coffee, or beer, liquor, or wine.
Avoid Sticky Foods
Sticky, or sweet, foods will only hasten the oral health problems. If you have dry mouth, the lack of saliva will prevent those foods from being broken down and washed away. Any processed food that contains sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or any other sweetener, contributes to this problem.
Unfortunately, almost all processed and fast-food products contain sugar of some kind. That means that you’ll probably have to make fundamental changes to your diet if you eat these kinds of foods.
Moisturize Your Mouth
Use xylitol candies or gum to draw moisture into your mouth. You can also fill a water bottle with about a teaspoon of xylitol and sip on it throughout the day. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with a unique ability to moisturize your mouth and starve pathogenic bacteria.
Use Special Mouthwashes
Special mouthwashes, that are made for people with dry mouth, may also help. They won’t contain alcohol, and they will contain ingredients like xylitol, which are moisturizing for the mouth.
Investigate Medications Causing Dry Mouth
Sometimes, medications can be the cause of dry mouth. Talk to your doctor about any meds you’re on, and whether they could be contributing to the problem. If they are, ask to be switched to other medications that don’t have quite as severe an impact on your oral health. Remember, oral health problems eventually become systemic, body-wide, problems.
Robert Ander is the go-to dental hygenist in his office. When not answering questions from patients, he often blogs about common concerns of oral hygiene.