According to the CDC, 1 in 13 Americans has asthma. That’s nearly 25 million Americans who have this chronic disease that affects the respiratory system, resulting in difficulty breathing, wheezing, and chest pain. The most common treatment to combat the symptoms of asthma is the use of an inhaler. However, these devices full of life-saving medication may cause some oral health problems. During this Asthma Awareness Month, your dentist in Georgetown wants to help by sharing some ways that asthma patients may be at an increased risk for certain oral health conditions, and how they can reduce that risk.
Most asthma patients feel shortness of breath and as if they can’t get enough air by breathing through their noses. As a result, it’s incredibly common for asthma sufferers to breathe out of their mouths instead. Mouth breathing over a prolonged period of time can cause the mouth to dry out — often appropriately referred to as dry mouth. Certain asthma medications may also cause dry mouth. Dry mouth is an uncomfortable condition that’s concerning for your dentist in Georgetown. When a mouth is dry, it means there’s not enough saliva being produced. Without saliva, bacteria and acids in the mouth can lead to tooth decay, as well as other concerns.
If dry mouth is left untreated, patients may also experience bad breath in addition to an increased risk of decay. If bacteria are left alone to flourish and multiply in the mouth, the patient will begin to have bad breath.
Another common result of untreated dry mouth, whether in an asthma patient or not, is gum disease. A dry mouth allows plaque to build up, which can certainly contribute to tooth decay and cavities, but this plaque can also start to work its way into the gum tissue causing inflammation, recession, and gum disease. Gum disease is a serious condition that requires early treatment intervention or it will continue to get worse. Untreated gum disease isn’t a condition that affects only the mouth. In fact, it can increase the chance of heart disease, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and cancers.
What To Do
Asthma patients who also have dry mouth are at increased risk of decay, bad breath, and gum disease. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things they can do to limit the risk of developing those conditions. Some ways asthma patients can combat dry mouth, and the risks that go along with it, include:
- Drinking Enough Water. Most health professionals recommend drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses every day to help keep your body hydrated. Your dentist in Georgetown agrees. Keeping your body hydrated also means your mouth is staying hydrated and is able to rinse away dangerous bacteria and acids.
- Swishing With Water. Those who notice a dry mouth after taking their asthma medication can, and should, rinse their mouths out with water immediately afterward. A quick swish and spit with water can help remove any of the dry mouth-causing ingredients, decreasing the likelihood of experiencing dry mouth.
- Chewing Sugarless Gum. Chewing anything automatically kick-starts saliva production because the body thinks we’re eating and are getting ready to swallow food. Saliva helps us pass food down our esophagus as well as helps break down food particles for easier digestion. Chewing gum will trigger the body to produce saliva, thus decreasing dry mouth.
- Talking With Your Dentist. Asthma patients should communicate their health history and any underlying health conditions such as asthma to their dentist in Georgetown. Not only can this help your dental team customize treatment, but it also makes them aware of things you may be at increased risk of, such as dry mouth, decay, bad breath, and gum disease so they can treat any problems early.
Your dental team is dedicated to the health of each of our patients. If you have questions about how asthma may affect oral health, or if you’re suffering from dry mouth, give us a call. We’re happy to help any way we can.