When I left Indiana to move south, I knew I would be trading the cold climate for milder temperatures. I didn’t realize that I would experience a “Lowcountry snowfall” each spring when tree pollen blankets the landscape in yellow!
The pollen causes me to have itchy eyes and congestion. If you’re like me and reach for allergy medicine to help relieve symptoms, make sure to let your dentist know, since many contain antihistamines that can directly affect the health of your mouth.
Antihistamines block the body’s reactions to allergens, and may cause xerostomia, or dry mouth, a condition in which the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva is the No. 1 innate cavity fighter and natural resource for maintaining a healthy mouth.
In addition to keeping your mouth moist and comfortable, saliva washes sugars off your teeth and reduces the mouth’s acidity, which prevents cavities and periodontal problems that can lead to tooth loss.
Dry mouth also increases the likelihood of quickly developing hardened plaque, calculus, or tartar on teeth. Increasing the frequency with which you see your hygienist for a professional cleaning to every three or four months is an excellent way to combat calculus buildup.
No matter the season, some simple ways that you can battle dry mouth and promote saliva production include:
• Drinking lots of water. This is important not just for saliva production, but also overall oral health. Some studies suggest drinking half of your weight in ounces of water each day. (If you weigh 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces of water daily.)
• Chewing sugar-free gum or xylitol mints. This is an easy and effective way to quickly stimulate your salivary glands.
• Rinsing with water or a fluoride mouth wash after each meal. I recommend carrying travel-sized mouth wash so you can rinse even when you are on the go.
• Increasing teeth-brushing frequency. The standard recommendation is brushing at least twice each day, but you can always increase the frequency of brushing to compensate.
• Asking your dentist or hygienist about treatments like xylitol tablets or a Bioténe mouth rinse. These and similar products are designed to stimulate saliva production, freshen breath, and reduce acid production. You can find them at your dentist office and many pharmacies.
Medicines containing antihistamine are not the only culprits that cause dry mouth. Many medications list dry mouth as a side effect and some medical conditions can decrease saliva.
That’s why it’s important to let your dentist if you are experiencing dry mouth and have made any changes to either your prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines since your last visit.
Sydney Caskey, DDS is a dentist in practice with ROC Dental Group in Bluffton.