Dehydration and Your Mouth

It’s hard to believe that a factor such as where you live can impact your oral health, but it’s true: residents of the Valley of the Sun must deal with the ever-present threat of dehydration, which can have some serious consequences for your mouth.

Oral_HealthEach year, more than 2,000 people end up in emergency rooms across the state of Arizona suffering from dehydration. The risk of dehydration is especially high from May to September, but you can become dehydrated at any time of year.

Dehydration can damage oral health on several levels. Similar to the effects of dry mouth, which is often caused by medication or illness, dehydration greatly reduces the flow of saliva in the mouth. With less saliva, the body is less able to clear debris and harmful plaque from the teeth and gums, and this increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. A person suffering from chronic mild dehydration may also have difficulty swallowing food or wearing dentures.

The main risk factors for dehydration are exposure to the heat and exertion in the heat. People can also become dehydrated if they’ve suffered vomiting or diarrhea while sick, or if they have a lack of access to clean drinking water.

Avoiding dehydration is simple: drink more water! Experts recommend that adults drink at least a gallon (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water per day – and more than that for anyone planning to spend time outside in our hot, dry climate. Limiting exposure to the heat and dressing appropriately (including a hat to protect your head and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing) also help.

Once you feel thirsty in the heat, you are already mildly dehydrated. It’s important to know the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion, and to get help if you or someone you know is suffering from them.

Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist in practice in Phoenix, says, “Dehydration impacts every part of your body – including your oral health. Becoming a savvy desert dweller will help preserve the well-being of your mouth, along with the rest of you!”

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