What You Can Do To Keep Your Mouth Healthy
By James Lin, University of Washington Pharm.D Candidate 2016
What is Oral Health and Why is it Important?
Oral health is vital to a healthy and happy life. Maintaining oral health involves much more than just brushing your teeth every day. It also has to do with staying hydrated, eating well, and seeing the dentist regularly. Having poor oral health can lead to dry mouth, cavities, and loss of teeth, which can lead to problems with chewing, speech, and physical appearance. It can even affect your general health, including your heart health and your mental well-being.
Maintaining good oral health will allow you to keep eating the foods you like and prevent dental pain or even losing teeth. This is also important if you have dentures, because dentures can be a place for bacteria to grow.
How can I take care of my mouth and my teeth?
- Brush twice daily and floss at least once daily.
- See the dentist regularly, at least once every six months.
- Limit starchy intake, as this can lead to bacterial growth.
- Manage dry mouth.
- Control blood sugar if you are diabetic.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth strong.
- Avoid tobacco.
More than 40% of people in the US may get dry mouth during their lives. Dry mouth is important to treat, as it is a leading cause of tooth decay and oral discomfort. Dry mouth can be caused by many factors, such as certain medications, surgery, cancer treatment, and some conditions that shut down salivary glands.
There are many things you can do to prevent dry mouth. The most important thing is to stay hydrated. Ensure that you get plenty of water and avoid drinks that can dry you up, such as alcoholic beverages, acidic drinks, or caffeine. Eating food with high water content such as vegetables and fruit may help as well. Next, if your mouth is dry, it is a good idea to chew sugarless gum or suck on sugar free hard candy. This stimulates saliva production, which is important to keep one’s mouth moist. Candy and gum with sugar is not nutritional and can lead to bacterial growth, so they are not recommended for use in dry mouth. For people with more severe dry mouth, artificial saliva is available without a prescription, and it provides the mouth with moisture.
Consider talking to your healthcare provider to see if any of your medications may cause dry mouth. They can see if any adjustments can be made to your medications to improve dry mouth symptoms. Do not stop any medication without letting your healthcare provider know.
How can your pharmacist help you?
Your pharmacist is an excellent resource to help you with dry mouth and oral health. As medication experts, pharmacists can help you identify any of your medications that may cause dry mouth. They can also give you suggestions about over the counter medication or non-medication related ways to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.