Everyone has experienced dry mouth at one point or another, especially after sleeping with your mouth open all night or maybe your nose is stuffed, forcing you to breathe from your mouth. However, dry mouth, at times, can be a chronic and a very uncomfortable condition.
In addition to several other chronic diseases, tobacco use is a primary cause of many oral diseases and adverse oral conditions. For example, tobacco is a risk factor for oral cancer and periodontal disease. It can also cause stained yellow or brown teeth, bad breath, and loss of teeth. Smoking is thought to alter bacteria in dental plaque, making it more harmful.
In general, smokers can expect to develop some combination of the following, depending on the amount and length of time they have smoked:
Persistent bad breath
An increase in calculus (tartar) build-up
Periodontal (gum and bone) disease that may progress more quickly and be more severe than in non-smokers
Jaw bone loss
An increased number of missing teeth
Root caries (cavities)
Smoker’s lip (like a burn)
Altered sense of taste and smell
Delayed wound healing
Smoking has been established as a significant risk factor for gum disease. Tobacco reduces blood flow to the gums, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients that allow gums to stay healthy, and leaving them vulnerable to bacterial infection.
According to one U.S. study, cigarette smoking may play a major role in more than half the cases of severe gum disease in adults. Current smokers were about four times more likely to have periodontitis than people who had never smoked. (Ref: J.Periodontology 2000 May:71(5):743-51)
If unchecked, periodontal disease can lead to complete destruction of the tooth’s supporting tissues, abscesses and, ultimately, loss of the tooth.
Caring for your Teeth and Gums
If you are a smoker, there are some things you can do to prevent tooth and gum problems:
Try to quit smoking – speak to your doctor or dentist or call helpline for guidance and support.
If quitting smoking is too difficult, try and reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke.
Thoroughly clean your teeth and gums twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride.
Use dental floss every day to clean between your teeth.
Avoid having a dry mouth – drink plenty of water and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
Limit your alcohol intake.
To stop using tobacco or smoking habit, people can also join smoking cessation classes and support groups along with drug therapy. Ask your doctor or dentist for information on similar programs they may be familiar with.
A toothache is a common reason for visiting the dentist. Pain from toothaches can affect the teeth and jaws.
Brush and floss your teeth to remove food fragments on and in-between your teeth. Rinse with warm water.
You may take painkillers for the pain, but DO NOT put an aspirin or any other painkiller directly against the gums near the aching tooth. This can burn and cause damage to the gum tissue. If the pain persists, call to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Avoid very cold or hot foods as they may make the pain worse.
Relief may be obtained by biting on some cotton wool soaked in oil of cloves. Oil of cloves is available at most pharmacies.
It is important to know that persistent toothache pain may temporarily subside, but will usually return until the underlying problem has been addressed. Failure to treat these problems in a timely manner may lead to further deterioration and more costly treatment.
Treatment for a toothache depends on the cause. If a cavity is causing the toothache, your dentist will fill the cavity or possibly extract the tooth, if necessary. A root canal might need to be done if the cause of a toothache is found to be an infection of the tooth’s nerve. Bacteria that have worked their way into the inner aspects of the tooth cause such an infection. An antibiotic may be prescribed.
See your dentist as soon as possible if a toothache lasts longer than 1 or 2 days or if it is severe. Proper identification and treatment of dental infections are important to prevent its spread to other parts of the face and skull and possibly even to the bloodstream.
Tooth sensitivity can affect one or more teeth. It’s most common when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet, or sour. The pain can be sharp and sudden and can shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth.
You may get sensitive teeth when your gums recede and expose the surface beneath, called the dentin. This soft layer makes up the inner part and roots, which have thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth’s nerve center (the pulp). These channels allow the trigger — for example, the hot, cold, or sweet food — to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the pain you feel.
Try toothpaste made for sensitive teeth – Several brands of toothpaste on the market are designed to help people with sensitive teeth. Some pastes contain an active ingredient called potassium nitrate, which helps to block the tiny tubules in the dentin. They don’t work for everybody, but it’s usually a good place to start.
Change the way you brush – If you’re not using a soft toothbrush, if you’re scrubbing your teeth vigorously, or if you’re not brushing for a full two minutes, then you’re not doing any favors for your sensitive teeth. Hard brushing can actually wear away enamel, increasing the sensitivity in your teeth. Changing your brushing habits will definitely pay off.
Avoid acidic food and drink – Exposure to red wine, pop, fruit juices and acidic foods—such as oranges and pickles—can put your enamel under constant attack. Limit these foods and drinks, and try to brush about 20 minutes after eating them.
Ask your dentist about a paint job – If you’re not having much luck with desensitizing toothpaste, talk to your dentist about painted-on barriers. Desensitizing agents like fluoride varnish or even plastic resins can be applied to the sensitive areas of your teeth.
Put a stop to tooth grinding – If you’re grinding your teeth when you’re tense, you could be wearing away enamel and giving yourself a sensitivity problem.
Treat your receding gums – Normally the root of your tooth is covered up by your gum tissue. But if you have some gum recession, caused by gum disease or even hard brushing, then the root will be exposed and the cementum can be worn away. Your dental care provider may be able to rebuild or restore your receding gums.
If you still have discomfort, call Expressions Dental™. There may be a procedure that can help.
Dry mouth, known medically as Xerostomia, is one of the main causes of halitosis (or bad breath). Dry mouth can be caused by a number of medical conditions. Most of these conditions are nonlife-threatening, making dry mouth more of a nuisance than anything else.
Drink water frequently to keep your mouth moist and loosen mucus. Carry water with you to sip throughout the day and keep water by your bed at night.
Suck on sugar-free hard candies, ice chips, or sugar-free popsicles. Chew sugarless gum (gums containing xylitol). These sucking and chewing actions help stimulate saliva flow.
Moisten foods with broths, soups, sauces, gravy, creams, and butter or margarine. Eat soft, moist foods that are cool or at room temperature.
Avoid commercial mouth rinses or mouthwashes that contain alcohol or peroxide. These ingredients may further dry out your mouth.
Avoid salty foods, dry foods (for example, crackers, toast, cookies, dry breads, dry meats/poultry/fish, dried fruit, bananas) and foods and beverages with high sugar content.
Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol increases water loss by triggering frequent urination. Alcohol, as well as caffeine, also dries out the mouth. Also avoid acidic beverages, such as any fruit juices.
To prevent or treat dry mouth, you can protect your teeth by brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and scheduling regular dental checkups. Oral cavities can lead to the growth of unhealthy bacteria, which eventually leads to dry mouth and bad breath.