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Effects of Dry Air on Oral Health

Along with the bitter cold temperatures Mother Nature has been sending us, come a few unpleasant side effects like chapped lips and a dry mouth and throat. 

To keep your lips hydrated during the cold winter months, try to avoid licking them.  Chapped lips are caused by wetting and drying, so things like licking your lips can cause your lips to become dryer and chapped.  Petroleum jelly, aloe vera, vitamin E, cucumber slices and shea butter are good DIY remedies to help soothe chapped lips as they heal.

Dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and often distracting, but it can also have an impact on your oral health.  Saliva is our body’s natural way of rinsing away food particles and odor causing bacteria.  But during the winter, every time you exhale, your body is losing moisture (that’s why you can see your breath on a cold day) and this reduced saliva flow can encourage the buildup of plaque, which can lead to bad breath and tooth decay. 

A couple causes of wintertime dry mouth are:

  1. Dry outdoor conditions.  As the temperature drops outside, relative humidity also lowers. The drier the air, the more quickly moisture escapes from your body, leaving your mouth, lips, skin, and hair dehydrated.
  2. Dry indoor conditions. Cranking up the heat is a great way to warm up, but that heated air further removes moisture from the air.

Other causes of dry mouth can include certain medications and some lifestyle habits, like smoking, using smokeless tobacco, and drinking alcohol regularly.

Since reduced moisture is the primary cause of winter dry mouth, you need to do your best to stay hydrated. Make a point to sip on water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you enjoy a salty snack or a chocolate treat, wash it down with at least 8 oz. of water afterward.  Other ways to stimulate healthy saliva production include chewing sugar-free gum, popping in a few sugar-free mints, or even munching on raw veggies like carrots or celery.

Sometimes, dry mouth may be a sign of a more serious oral or general health problem. If you drink plenty of water and practice good oral health habits and still experience frequent dry mouth or bad breath, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Mike or Dr. Dan.