Stay hydrated to prevent dental decay - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Stay hydrated to prevent dental decay

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Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010 2:00 pm

For those of us who live in Arizona, water is an essential part of our nutrition. The body is made of 60 to 75 percent water. Every cell in our body requires water to function. With the summer heat, hydration with water is essential not only for the body, but for the mouth and teeth as well.¬

The mouth has approximately a milliliter of saliva when the body is well hydrated. The saliva acts as a buffer by neutralizing the pH level of the mouth as we consume foods and drinks. It also prevents plaque from easily attaching to teeth, thus aiding in prevention of decay. An individual’s mouth requires saliva to help chew and digest food and to help wash away food from the teeth while eating.

When the body is dehydrated, a condition called xerostomia, or dry mouth, may occur. When experiencing xerostomia, one may experience constant sore throat, burning sensation, hoarseness and speech difficulty, difficulty swallowing, and dry nasal passages. Lack of saliva may also cause multiple dental problems, including enamel erosion, plaque build-up and increased dental decay. When the saliva amount decreases in the mouth, the saliva functions decrease. Dr. Ana Diaz-Arnold, DDS, University of Iowa professor of family dentistry, says: “I don’t think that people realize the importance of saliva until the well runs dry, saliva is critical for your dental health.”

There are many ways to treat dry mouth. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends drinking lots of water, chewing sugarless gum and sucking on sugar-free hard candies to stimulate salivary flow. Diaz-Arnold suggests drinking milk with meals to promote moisture. To combat Arizona’s dry heat, running a cool air humidifier at night will increase the humidity in the house and alleviate symptoms of dry mouth.

In addition to stimulating salivary flow, avoiding a few items can help prevent dry mouth. Avoiding acidic drinks and foods such as lemon candies, cough drops, soda, sports drinks and caffeine will help prevent xerostomia. Avoiding alcohol and alcohol-based mouthwashes will also help prevent dry mouth because they have a tendency to dry the mouth.

There is no substitute for saliva; however, there are mouthwashes, chewing gums, toothpastes and prescription medications to help lubricate the mouth in severe cases of dry mouth. An individual’s dentist can evaluate whether or not any of these products could benefit in mouth lubrication.


Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit

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