It seems like it just keeps getting hotter and hotter each year, doesn’t it?
Don’t worry: We’re not about to debate the finer points of climate change theory; rather, we’re talking about the fact that it’s June.
Even though we’re blessed with temperate weather year-round (for the most part), your body will still get pretty hot when you’re out for a jog, cruising on your bike, hitting the gym, or playing sports. And when you’re busy working up a sweat this summer, your body will be burning through its water reserves pretty quickly.
Fail to drink enough water, and congratulations! You’re now dehydrated.
As you may or may not know, dehydration can range from a mild to life-threatening condition, depending on just how dehydrated you really are. The symptoms can range from headaches and muscle cramps, to coma and even death on the more extreme end of the spectrum.
But regardless of how dehydrated you might become, any level of dehydration is enough to cause serious harm to your smile.
“What’s that?!” you might be wondering. “How does a dry mouth affect the health of my teeth and gums?”
The answer: In more ways that you probably realize.
The Disease-Dehydration Link
Stop for a moment and try to imagine your mouth as a kind of ecosystem. Remember in elementary school, those diagrams of the water cycle that you had to learn in science class and which were oh-so-stimulating to your pre-adolescent mind? Well, when it comes to the proper regulation of saliva, your mouth is very similar to that.
Just as rain falls, evaporates, condenses, and falls once more, there is a similar harmony at work when your smile is sufficiently lubricated. Saliva also has some antibacterial and antifungal properties, which go a long way toward keeping your mouth free from a debilitating infection or infections.
So you can probably see where I am going with this.
If you or a member of your family is already gearing up for the summer sporting season, going to practices and training dates with increased fervor now that school has let out for the season, then you owe it yourself, your little athlete, and your family’s collective pocketbook to instill in them the importance of staying hydrated – not just for their performance on the field, but for the sake of their oral health.
I had a patient several years ago, the son of a longtime patient, Gerald, who had just started pee wee football. Gerald was puzzled as to why now, all of a sudden, his little linebacker was suffering from an impromptu case of gum disease.
“I just don’t get it,” I remember Gerald telling me. “We make sure he brushes twice a day, and just last year we got him to floss. He’s not eating any more sweets than normal, so we wanted to bring him in to figure out what we were doing wrong.”
I applaud any parent who is willing to admit their mistakes even if they aren’t sure what they’re yet, because it allows them to be more open to a critical treatment than they would be if they acted too proud to acknowledge the truth: Something has gone wrong with their child’s smile under their watch, and instead of worrying about blame, they are focused on a solution.
After examining their boy’s mouth, I could tell that he just wasn’t getting enough water; I even asked him as much, and he confirmed it.
I then explained to them how a dry mouth can upset that delicate ecosystem I mentioned earlier, allowing bacteria to gain a stronger foothold than usual because there’s no saliva to “block it.”
I prescribed a special mouthwash to take care of the mild gum disease as well as advice imploring them to make hydration a priority, and sent them off on their way. Later in the year, during a follow-up, I could see that the mouthwash and my advice was working.
I watched the child grow up into a capable football player, but because he followed my advice, he never had to worry about gum disease again. Getting a tooth knocked out, however, is another story entirely.
To schedule a consultation appointment that will help figure out if dehydration is taking its toll on your smile or the smile of a loved one, please reach out to me, your new Oregon City dentist, at (503) 917-0523. Or you can make your appointment online after filling out a questionnaire.
I look forward to helping you and yours this summer!
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