Saliva or spit has many important functions. It moisturizes our mouth and our food to make chewing and swallowing easier. It also helps to protect our teeth and gums by rinsing sugar, bacteria and other harmful substances out of our mouth.

Saliva is produced in the salivary glands and is composed of 99% water but contains important minerals, enzymes and antibodies. These antibodies help prevent infections of the mouth and throat. A typical person’s salivary glands produce roughly one and a half liters (50 ounces!) of saliva a day.

It is very common for people with diabetes to suffer from dry mouth and hypo-salivation (decreased saliva production). This could be due to the body excreting water through increased urination, or from an underlying metabolic or hormonal problem. Many medications that diabetics take can also cause dry mouth.

Symptoms of dry mouth include soreness in the mouth, impaired ability to taste food and difficult or painful eating. The mouth may look red and feel parched. There may be cracking at the corners of the mouth. The tongue may show a pebbled appearance. Halitosis (bad breath) and oral infections are also symptoms of dry mouth.

Dry mouth can lead to many dental problems. Saliva acts as a protector of the teeth and gum tissues by helping to minimize the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Here’s how dry mouth can affect oral health:

  • Low levels of saliva will likely lead to an increase in tooth decay, periodontal disease, infections and bad breath.
  • Undiagnosed or untreated dry mouth could lead to a significant impact on the quality of life.

If recognized and treated early, dry mouth’s effect on oral health may be minimized. Dry mouth symptoms can be relieved through the use of oral care products. I recommend Biotene® Dry Mouth Relief products by GlaxoSmithKline to my patients to relieve their dry mouth symptoms. Many of the Biotene oral care products help by supplementing saliva’s natural antibacterial system, which may be weakened in dry mouth sufferers.

I also suggest sipping water often, avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol which dry out your mouth, and avoiding tobacco.

If you are experiencing symptoms of dry mouth it is very important to start today to keep your mouth moisturized!

Prevention is the key to a healthy mouth!

NOTE: Consult with your dentist or doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.