Parkview Dental Care - David Bertagna, DDS
Water is the most important substance related to life. Water is fundamental for plants to grow and to produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The lungs of all animals that breathe air are composed of 90% water. The human body is composed of 55-65% water, and the blood is composed of 83-92% water. Water covers 71% of the earth's surface. Oceans and seas hold 96.5% of the water on earth.
In humans, water helps to digest food, transport waste, and control body temperature. More importantly, water allows complex organic compounds to chemically react in ways that allow cellular replication and repair. Interestingly, saliva is composed of 99.5% water. The rest of the components of saliva are essential in beginning the process of digestion of dietary starches and fats. They also contribute to the immune system response to invading organisms.
Saliva serves as a lubricant, permitting the initiation of swallowing, and protecting the mucosal (skinlike tissue inside the mouth) surfaces of the oral cavity from desiccation, or drying out. Without normal salivary function the frequency of dental caries (cavities), gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis), and other oral problems increases significantly.
In people with little saliva (xerostomia), soreness of the mouth is very common, and food, (especially dry food) sticks to the inside of the mouth. The most common cause of xerostomia, or dry mouth is from the side effects of many types of medications. It is more common in older people because they tend to take several medications. People who have gone through radiation therapy for oral cancer are also at risk for xerostomia.
Saliva maintains the pH of the mouth. The pH of water is neutral, described as 7 on a scale of 0 to 14. If an acid is dissolved in water, the pH will be less than seven. When a base or alkali, is dissolved in water, the pH will be greater than 7. Almost all the foods that we eat are acidic in nature. That is why saliva is so important to the health of the oral cavity. Saliva increases the pH of mouth to around 7.
Salivary flow naturally decreases during sleep, which may lead to a sensation of dry mouth upon waking. Morning breath is the bad breath (halitosis) associated with dry mouth upon waking. This disappears with eating or drinking or when brushing the teeth. Dry mouth is also associated with periods of anxiety, such as public speaking. These are considered normal conditions of the human experience.
Dehydration is known to cause dry mouth, the result of the body trying to conserve water. Age related changes in the salivary glands may lead to a modest reduction in salivary output and explain the prevalence of dry mouth in older people. More commonly, the cause of dehydration is the lack of sufficient water intake.
The most common cause of dry mouth by far is the use of medications to treat the many clinical ailments from diabetes to heart disease. It has been determined that 63% of the 200 most commonly prescribed drugs in the US cause dry mouth. The likelihood of dry mouth increases in relation to the total number of medications taken. The sensation of dryness usually starts shortly after taking the offending medication, or after increasing the dose.
The successful treatment of dry mouth is difficult to achieve and often not successful. The goal is to determine the correctible cause, but usually this is complicated by more than one possible factor in the diagnosis. Most treatments focus on preventing tooth decay by improving oral hygiene. Most causes of dry mouth are chronic in nature and not able to be reversed.
Saliva substitutes can improve dry mouth, but tend not to improve the other problems associated with salivary gland dysfunction such as salivary duct calcifications. Sugar free gum can help recreate the normal chewing function and contribute to saliva production. Xylitol has been shown to have significant effects on saliva production as well as decreasing the amount dental decay that can affect the oral cavity.
The oral cavity is an amazing structure that allows human beings to eat, breathe, communicate, and along with the muscles of the face, express emotion. And yet, something as basic as water, is what keeps this mechanism functioning. That is why we give water to all our patients. Parkview Dental Care believes that Happy Smiles begin with Healthy Choices!