June 25, 2017
Now that the warm summer months are here, it’s time to go outside and enjoy the weather. Swimming, baseball, bike riding, or just running around the backyard with the kids is a big reason summer is so much fun.
But there’s something you need to worry about in summer more so than other seasons: dehydration. Not only can this lead to dizziness, nausea, and illness, it can hurt your teeth and gums.
That’s why you need to call our Fairfax, VA dental office today at 703-552-2530 and make your next appointment. Dr. Ki is your Fairfax dentist combining years of experience with advanced training in keeping people’s smiles healthy and beautiful. Come in before dehydration this summer does too much damage to your teeth.
Why Your Smile Needs Saliva
Saliva is there to help you chew your food. It softens what you eat so you can swallow it. But that’s not the only job saliva performs for you. Here’s how saliva helps protect your teeth:
- Get rid of food particles: Cavities and gum disease are caused by harmful bacteria in your mouth. They survive by eating tiny particles of food that are left behind when you eat. Saliva helps wash some of them away, helping control cavities and gum disease.
- Make enamel stronger: Saliva isn’t just water. There are trace amounts of minerals like calcium in it. Since saliva coats your teeth, these minerals soak into the enamel and make it stronger.
- Freshen your breath: Those food particles start to decay in your mouth, which can make your breath smell bad. That means saliva helps keep your mouth (and breath) fresh.
- Delay stains on your teeth: Dark foods and drinks leave behind tiny stains on your teeth. Since saliva washes things away, some of these stains are washed away as well, slowing down how quickly your teeth can get stained.
Dehydration Causes Dental Problems
If you are dehydrated, your body is starved for water. That means you are going to have dry mouth. Your body decides the water normally used to make saliva is more useful elsewhere.
Coffee, wine, chocolate, tomato sauce are all dark, so they leave behind stains on your enamel. These are small and you don’t notice the change at first. That’s why you can look at an old picture of you and suddenly realize your smile is dark and dingy.
Normally, saliva slows down this process so your teeth stay whiter for longer. But when you are dehydrated, you don’t have the saliva to get rid of some of those staining elements. That means your teeth will get stained faster than normal.
Everyone has those harmful bacteria in their mouth. They survive by eating tiny particles of food in your mouth. (You can’t avoid those particles unless you never eat anything.) In return, the bacteria produce an acid. When they live on your teeth, that acid erodes holes in the enamel called cavities.
Saliva doesn’t get rid of all food particles, but it does wash some of them away. That can help you avoid getting cavities. With a dry mouth thanks to dehydration, you end up giving more food to those harmful bacteria. That translates into more cavities.
Those harmful bacteria do more than just cause cavities, because they can live on your gums as well. When this happens, they still produce an acid. This irritates and then damages the gum tissues there. You will soon get gum disease which can lead to bleeding gums, loose teeth, and even lost teeth.
As with cavities, saliva normally washes away some of the food particles that feed the harmful bacteria. So when you have a dry mouth due to dehydration, you’re also increasing your risk of getting gum disease.
Saliva has trace elements of calcium and similar minerals. As the saliva coats your teeth, these soak into the enamel and help make it stronger. So when you have a dry mouth due to dehydration, your enamel is missing out on these. This can lead to weaker teeth.