Dry Mouth, Sugar Exposure, and Xylitol
While there are several different factors that can increase your risks of cavities, sugar is perhaps one of the most notorious. While there are several different mechanisms to help prevent cavities, your saliva is one of the most consistently effective. Sometimes, preserving your smile means understanding the complications of dry mouth, which describes a lack in adequate saliva production, and how it can boost the ability of sugar and other substances to cause cavities.
Complications of Dry Mouth
Cavities, or holes in your teeth, develop and grow due to an infection known as tooth decay. It originates with the bacteria that live in your dental plaque. Your saliva, made almost entirely of water, is one of your mouth’s main lines of defense against bacteria and the acids that they produce to weaken your teeth. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, means your salivary glands are not producing enough saliva, and it can allow oral bacteria a greater chance of multiplying and destroying your teeth’s protective enamel. Common causes of dry mouth can include;
- Certain types of medications
- Diseases that affect the salivary glands
- Radiation/Chemo therapy
- Damage to the nerves that control your salivary glands (typically due to an injury)
- Habits that can damage the salivary glands, like excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use
The Connection Between Saliva, Sugar, and Cavities
How is dry mouth connected to sugar and cavities, you may wonder? Some of the bacteria found in dental plaque, namely the microbe Streptococcus mutans, are responsible for converting sugar and other carbohydrates into teeth-attacking acids. Without enough saliva to wash them away, S. mutans can flourish in the environment created by dry mouth, producing exponentially more acids every time you eat or drink something.
What is Xylitol?
Besides saliva deficiency, inadequate hygiene and irresponsible sugar consumption can also increase your cavity risks by bolstering S. mutans and other harmful oral bacteria. In addition to improved hygiene, we may recommend cutting down on your sugar intake to deprive the bacteria of fuel.
Xylitol, a naturally-occurring sweetener found in the bark of birch trees, raspberries, and other natural sources, is a popular sugar-substitute that actively helps prevent cavity formation. The sweetener inhibits S. mutans’ ability to cling to your teeth and form plaque, making it more difficult for the bacteria to become strong enough to threaten your teeth.
Schedule an Appointment Today!
At Independence Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Scott Roberson offers expert dental care for your entire family, including cosmetic, restorative, and preventive services. We proudly provide services to patients from Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Kansas City, Grain Valley, Liberty, and surrounding areas. To schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services, call our dental office in Independence, MO, today at 816-350-0808.