How Does Dehydration Affect the Mouth? (Risks You Need to Know)
Staying hydrated is not only important for your body but also for your smile.
As our North Oaks dentist said,
“Especially in our hot summer months, it is important to be well hydrated to maintain proper body chemistry balance. Proper balance affects our mouths and dehydration can lead to bad breath, gum tissue problems, and decay. A vibrant smile is always enhanced by plenty of healthy moisture!” – Dr. Steve Gorman
To help you understand how dehydration can affect your mouth, our dental team has outlined everything you need to know in this quick blog.
How does dehydration affect the mouth?
There are many signs of dehydration, but the biggest one to look for is dry mouth. Why?
Dry mouth significantly increases your risk for dental problems like gum disease. How?
Saliva (or spit) plays a crucial role in your oral health. It helps clear away food and bacteria, build and maintain soft and hard tissues, and serves as the Opens new tab to MouthHealthy website bloodstream of your mouth.
Dry mouth occurs when your mouth is not producing enough saliva. This creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to cavities and other oral infections.
Saliva also plays a role in:
- Keeping your breath fresh: Saliva helps to keep your breath fresh by continually “washing” your teeth, tongue, and gums. A dry mouth can give you bad breath (halitosis).
- Keeping your teeth white: Saliva minimizes stains by rinsing away food and drink before it can stain your enamel.
- Strengthening your enamel: Saliva provides calcium, fluoride, and phosphate ions to the surface (enamel) of your teeth. This helps to strengthen them and sometimes make microscopic repairs.
- Fighting cavities: Those same minerals above help fight disease and harmful bacteria, which can lead to cavities and other infections.
- Preventing gum disease: Also known as periodontal disease, this condition is caused by a build-up of bacteria and plaque. Saliva helps to reduce this build-up by washing away bacteria.
On the bright side, dry mouth is often the first sign of dehydration. This gives you a headstart on rehydrating and reducing your oral health risks.
How to prevent dry mouth
The best way to prevent dry mouth is to drink enough water each day so you have an adequate amount of saliva at all times.
According to Dr. Julian Seifter, a kidney specialist and associate professor of medicine at Opens new tab to Harvard website with article Harvard Medical School, healthy people should get 30 to 50 ounces of water per day (about 1 to 1.5 liters), but not all at once.
Dr. Seifter also said:
“The kidneys lose some ability to eliminate water as we age. It’s important to stay hydrated gradually, throughout the day… An easy way to stay hydrated gradually is by getting fluids at meals, with medicine, and socially,”
Other ways you can increase your saliva production and prevent dry mouth include:
- Chewing: Whether it’s your meal or sugar-free gum, chewing causes your muscles to compress the salivary glands and release saliva.
- Limiting caffeine, alcohol, and salt: These can dry your mouth out.
- Eating water-dense foods: Such as salads, fruit, and applesauce.
- Drinking coconut water: To help replace lost electrolytes when you sweat.
- Using alcohol-free mouth wash: Alcohol can dry your mouth out.
- Stop using tobacco: This will help not only your mouth but also your overall health.
- Breathing through the nose: This will help keep your mouth moist, especially on hot days.
- Add moisture to air: Try using a humidifier to breathe in better air.
Other signs of dehydration that affect your mouth
Dry mouth isn’t the only sign your body lacks water. Here are more common signs of dehydration:
- Cracked skin or lips
- Bad breath
- Dry or sticky tongue
- Swollen tongue
- Dark urine
- Tightening or shrinking skin
- Rough or flaking skin
- Blood pressure
- Heart effects
At times, you may notice additional symptoms in tandem with dehydration. These may include:
- Tooth pain
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Red gums
- Gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss
- Receding gums
- Tender gums
If you notice the above symptoms, call your dentist for an appointment. These are signs something else is wrong, which needs to be treated by a dental professional.
Keep your mouth hydrated and healthy
It is our hope this blog provided you with the knowledge you need to address dehydration and prevent dental problems caused by dry mouth.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office:
Dr. Gorman provides world-class preventive, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry in North Oaks, MN, and serving surrounding communities, including St. Paul, Minneapolis, Vadnais Heights, New Brighton, Shoreview, Little Canada, White Bear Lake, Lino Lakes, Dellwood, Roseville, Twin Cities, Edina, Minnetonka, Eagan, Woodbury, Hudson, Arden Hills, and Wisconsin.
For more oral health tips, check out these blogs:
- Dental Care Tips & Facts You Need to Know
- Healthy Halloween Tips
- How Nutrition Affects Your Oral Health
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.