Getting orthodontic treatment can be one of the most rewarding decisions you make in your life; aside from the health and functional benefits of having straight teeth and a proper bite, the increased confidence and self-esteem that comes with having a beautiful smile has a positive affect on all areas of life, from school and work to personal relationships.
As beneficial as orthodontic treatment is, some patients may experience some initial discomfort or other symptoms like having a slight lisp when they talk. These symptoms are usually minor and subside once the mouth and teeth adjust to the braces.
Another condition a person may experience while wearing braces is dry mouth. Dry mouth syndrome, or Xerostomia, occurs as a result of lack of saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth is uncomfortable and can make eating, swallowing and talking difficult. It can also cause bad breath, excessive thirst and tongue pain.
Saliva plays an important role in remineralizing the teeth and neutralizing plaque acids, so if left unattended, dry mouth could lead to more serious oral health problems such as gum disease and tooth decay.
Many foods, drinks and medications, as well as breathing through the mouth, can cause Xerostomia. And because braces can impede the production of saliva, they, too, can be a source of dry mouth for some (but not all) wearers.
Xerostomia can be a symptom of more serious underlying health issues, so it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider and rule out other factors before addressing dry mouth on your own. If it is then determined that your braces are indeed creating the dryness, then give one or more of these simple solutions a try—just be safe and get approval from your healthcare provider as needed before adding or eliminating anything from your diet or daily routine.
Seven Solutions for Dry Mouth Caused by Braces
1. Stay Hydrated
We may be stating the obvious here, but drinking more fluids or sipping water frequently throughout the day is a sure-fire way of keeping dry mouth under control. Keep in mind that plain water is best, as drinks that contain sugar, alcohol and/or caffeine can make the condition worse.
2. Suck on Ice Chips
Sucking on ice chips (or even small pieces of melon or cucumber partially frozen) is another way to moisten the mouth, and can also soothe any soreness you may be experiencing if your braces are new or you’ve just had an adjustment. Sucking on sugar-free candies can also help with the dryness, but won’t do much to remedy any additional discomfort you may be experiencing. Whatever you choose, just remember to suck, not chew(!!) to avoid potential damage to your braces and teeth.
3. Eat Foods with High Moisture Content
Avoid foods that are dry and/or salty like crackers, chips, dry meat, bread and toast. Instead, choose “wet” foods and those with a high moisture content such as fruits and veggies, smoothies, soups and stews. Opting for moist fish and eggs over red meat and serving food lukewarm instead of piping hot can also help.
4. Eliminate Tobacco Products
There are so many better reasons to stop using tobacco products that we almost didn’t add it to the list. But if eliminating dry mouth is what triggers you to kick the habit—hey, whatever works. It’s worth noting that using tobacco in any form (chewing tobacco, cigarettes, hookah, etc.) will dry out the mouth.
5. Eliminate Alcohol
We’re sure most of you have heard of having cottonmouth after a night of drinking. But even moderate alcohol use can be dehydrating, so if your braces are giving you a dry mouth (and assuming you are of legal drinking age), you may want to forego happy hour until you’re done with treatment. You’ll also want to make sure that the mouthwash you’re using is alcohol-free.
6. Eliminate Caffeine
Caffeine is another ingredient that you’ll want to avoid during orthodontic treatment if your braces are causing dry mouth. Switch to decaffeinated versions of coffee, tea and soda (or opt for plain water), and reach for energy boosting foods like whole grains, nuts and salmon or bananas, apples and citrus fruits instead of caffeine-laden energy drinks.
7. Use a Humidifier
If you’re primarily experiencing Xerostomia at night or are waking up with a dry mouth, running a humidifier while you sleep can help, as the increased moisture in the air helps support saliva production. Using a humidifier is said to have many other benefits, including a decrease in snoring, a decrease in harmful bacteria in the air and a reduction of dry, itchy skin; so if you do decide to use a humidifier to combat dry mouth, you may end up getting more than you bargained for—in a good way.
If you and your healthcare provider have ruled out other factors and have determined that it is your braces that are giving you a dry mouth, we hope the simple solutions we shared here today provide you with relief. While we know it can be frustrating, try to remember that Xerostomia—or any other discomfort that you may encounter during orthodontic treatment—is very temporary, but the rewards of having a healthy, beautiful smile will be experienced for years and years to come.