Dry Mouth

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

 


A

Air abrasion - is a drill-less technique that is being used by some dentists to remove tooth decay and for other applications
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth. 
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.

B
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.

C
CAD/CAM dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in dentistry), is an area of dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce different types of dental restorations, including crowns, crownlays, veneers,  inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
Calculus (tartar)-  Calculus is hardened plaque (a sticky substance) that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border. 
Caries - Another term for decay, which causes cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid. 
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings. 
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.

D
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.

E
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.

F
Fluoride - A naturally occurring substance added to water, toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth's enamel.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.

G
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.

I
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold.  fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.
Intracoronal - situated or made within the crown of a tooth

L
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.

M
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship
Mandible - The lower jaw
Maxilla - The upper jaw
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces

N
Nightguard - Night mouth guards are bite pads that are worn at night as you sleep. There are also used as mouth guards for day use. These guards are made of high-grade plastic and are custom fit to the mouth. This device keeps the upper teeth from grinding with the lower teeth, offering an instant solution to teeth clenching problems.
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Are more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.

O
Onlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold;  fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place. It is designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth by extending to replace a cusp.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.

P
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces teeth. Also called a bridge. 
Pedodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with children's teeth.
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque -Plaque is a sticky, colorless, almost invisible film or substance that forms on the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. 
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.

R
Radiographs - Diagnostic X-rays essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss.  X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.

S
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.

T
Tartar - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay –   Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth.  This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods. Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures.Teeth polishing: Removal of  stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
TMD - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.

V
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.

W
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
 

Dry mouth.Everybody gets a dry mouth from time to time. Temporary mouth dryness can be brought on by dehydration, stress, or simply the normal reduction in saliva flow at night. But persistent mouth dryness, a condition known as xerostomia, is cause for concern.

Xerostomia occurs when your salivary glands, which normally keep your mouth moist by secreting saliva, are not working properly. A chronic lack of saliva has significant health implications. For one thing, it can be difficult to eat with a dry mouth; tasting, chewing and swallowing may also be affected. This could compromise your nutrition. Also, a dry mouth creates ideal conditions for tooth decay. That's because saliva plays a very important role in keeping decay-causing oral bacteria in check and neutralizing the acids these bacteria produce; it is the acid in your mouth that erodes tooth enamel and starts the decay process. A dry mouth can also cause bad breath.

Possible Causes

There are several possible causes for xerostomia, including:

  • Medications. For most people suffering from dry mouth, medications are to blame. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there are more than 500 medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that have this side effect. Antihistamines (for allergies), diuretics (which drain excess fluid), and antidepressants, are high on the list of medications that cause xerostomia. Chemotherapy drugs can also have this effect.
  • Radiation Therapy. Radiation of the head and neck can damage salivary glands—sometimes permanently. Radiation to treat cancer in other parts of the body will not cause xerostomia.
  • Disease. Some systemic (general body) diseases can cause dry mouth. Sjögren's syndrome, for example, is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own moisture-producing glands in the eyes and mouth. Other diseases known to cause dry mouth include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis and AIDS.
  • Nerve Damage. Trauma to the head or neck can damage the nerves involved in the production of saliva.

Getting Relief

If you are taking any medication regularly, it's possible that your physician can either suggest a substitute or adjust the dosage to relieve your symptoms of dry mouth. If this is not possible or has already been tried, here are some other things you can do:

  • Sip fluids frequently. This is particularly helpful during meals. Make sure what you drink does not contain sugar and isn't acidic, as these will both increase your risk of tooth decay. All sodas, including diet varieties, should be avoided, as they are acidic and attack the tooth surface.
  • Chew sugarless gum. This will help stimulate saliva flow if your salivary glands are not damaged. Choose a variety that contains xylitol, a natural sugar substitute that can be protective against tooth decay.
  • Avoid drying/irritating foods and beverages. These include toast and crackers, salty and spicy foods, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • Don't smoke. This can dry out the mouth and also increase your risk of gum disease.
  • Use a humidifier. Running a cool-mist humidifier at night can be soothing.
  • Use saliva stimulants/substitutes. There are prescription and over-the-counter products that can either stimulate saliva or act as a substitute oral fluid. We can give you some recommendations.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste; this will remove bacterial plaque and add minerals to strengthen your teeth. Don't forget to floss.
  • Have an exam/cleaning. If you have dry mouth, it's more important than ever to maintain your regular schedule of visits to the dental office. Please be sure to let us know what medications you are taking, particularly if there have been any changes recently. We will do our best to help relieve any dry-mouth symptoms you are experiencing.

Related Articles

Dry Mouth - Dear Doctor Magazine

Dry Mouth Dry mouth, caused by insufficient saliva flow, is more than a minor annoyance to the millions who suffer from it. That's because saliva helps maintain oral health in a variety of ways. If your mouth is persistently dry, here's what you should know... Read Article