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How does xerostomia or dry mouth affect oral health?

Dry mouth is often caused by lack of saliva. It is a complaint rather than a disease. Another name for dry mouth is xerostomia. Saliva flow coats and moistens oral tissues. It cleanses the mouth and helps digest foods as they are chewed. But if there is not enough saliva, harmful germs grow in the mouth.

For some people, a low saliva flow rate is simply a bother. For others, too little saliva causes health problems. Dry mouth can make chewing, swallowing and speaking difficult. It also may lead to:
  • a burning feeling
  • tooth decay
  • bad breath
  • infections of the soft tissues of the mouth
Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them sore and can lead to infections. Without good saliva flow to keep the mouth clean, tooth decay and gum disease become much more common. Constant dryness may lead to germ build-up and bad breath. Dry mouth also could make full dentures less comfortable to wear because there is no thin film of saliva to help dentures hold on well to oral tissues.
Not only is it uncomfortable, but saliva is protective in preventing infection and sores in the mouth.

Among the more commonly known benefits of saliva is that it acts as a lubricant of the soft tissues as it rubs against the teeth, it protects the teeth from cavities, it prevents an overgrowth of yeast, and it helps with the swallowing and digestion of food.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.