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An increasing number of patients in my practice are reporting a problem with dry mouth. This condition is termed "xerostomia." Xerostomia can be a side effect of the medications a person is taking for illnesses such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, allergies, weight loss, Parkinson's disease, pain and many more. However, there are many other factors that contribute to a decrease in salivary production including the aging process, radiation treatments and depression.

At St. Paul General Dentistry we know that, aside from being annoying, the symptoms of dry mouth can cause significant dental hygiene problems. Saliva is the body’s natural cleansing mouth rinse.  Each time we swallow, saliva washes away bacteria, as well as the food and debris on which they feed. Saliva contains compounds that kill bacteria in the mouth, and without proper dental hygiene dry mouth enhances the conditions for bacterial growth (and associated periodontal disease) as the ability to neutralize bacterial waste products is reduced.

If you’re experiencing chronic dry mouth and you suspect that it may be due to medication, consult with your medical doctor who may be able to adjust your dosage to help alleviate the problem. Some other steps you can take to reduce symptoms are:

  • Using sugar-free candy or gum
  • Drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth moist
  • Using a vaporizer to add moisture to the air in your bedroom
  • Using an artificial saliva substitute available at your pharmacy
The reduction in saliva production leads to the very conditions on which the bacteria in your mouth thrive, allowing bacteria lingering at the gumline and between teeth to cause serious damage, periodontal disease or gingivitis. Since patients with Xerostomia (dry mouth) are at increased risk for periodontal disease, good dental hygiene - brushing regularly with toothpaste, using a mouth rinse, and visiting your St. Paul Highland Park Dentist frequently for cleanings and examinations - are critically important to your oral health.

A number of my patients have come to me asking for more information about the benefits of Xylitol and Xylitol gum for maintaining healthy teeth. Today I’d like to address some of their questions and provide more facts about Xylitol.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener first discovered in birch tree bark and also found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is actually good for your teeth, unlike many other natural or synthetic sweeteners. Numerous clinical studies have shown that Xylitol does indeed prevent the growth of bacteria that causes decay. It also helps to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce plaque. Products sweetened with xylitol create an unwelcome environment for bacteria; they simply cannot stick to teeth in a xylitol-rich environment.

What are other benefits of Xylitol?

In addition, it not only has fewer calories and less effect on blood sugar than sucrose, but xylitol also inhibits the creation of acid in the mouth. This minimizes the damage done to your teeth, as well as allowing your teeth to heal at a faster rate. Xylitol has a low glycemic index of 7, compared to sugar's level of 83.

Because Xylitol is low on the glycemic index, many diabetic patients can enjoy it as a healthy alternative to sugar. When patients at my Minneapolis Dental Office complain about frequent dry mouth, I can confidently recommend Xylitol gum or mints to stimulate saliva production without promoting tooth decay.

Is using Xylitol gum a substitute for brushing and dental exams?
The answer to this question is a resounding “No!” If you cannot brush your teeth after a meal, chewing Xylitol gum for five or ten minutes is probably a good idea. However, you should still brush your teeth thoroughly after meals and get routine exams and dental cleanings at your Saint Paul Highland Park Dentist.
 

Your smile is one of your greatest assets and the first thing that people notice about you. Cosmetic dentistry can transform your smile, but that is only the first step. A proper at-home oral hygiene routine ensures that you will have not only a great-looking smile, but a healthy mouth.

Brushing:
  • Brush at least twice a day; in the morning and before bed.  Unsure of which brush is right for you? St. Paul Dentistry can help you select one that suits your needs.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where the gums and teeth meet.
  • Use small circular motions to gently brush gum line and teeth.
  • Don’t apply too much pressure to the teeth - this can damage gums and tooth enamel.
  • Brush every surface of every tooth, cheek-side, tongue-side, and chewing surfaces. Pay special attention to the surfaces of the back teeth.
  • Use back and forth strokes to brush the chewing surfaces.
  • Brush the tongue to remove fungi, food and debris.

 Flossing:

Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from between teeth. The flavor and type of floss are unimportant; choose floss that will be easy and pleasant to use.

  • Cut a piece of floss about 18” long.
  • Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of the left hand and the other end around the middle finger of the right hand until the hands are 2-3 inches apart.
  • Work the floss gently between the teeth toward the gum line.
  • Curve the floss in a U-shape around each tooth, carefully sliding it beneath the gum line.
  • Carefully move the floss up and down several times to remove inter-dental plaque and debris.

If you still have questions, contact our Minneapolis Dental Office, and we will be more than happy to answer them for you.

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