When you suffer from allergies, the last thing you ever think about is your oral health. But in reality, your oral health is the first thing that gets affected by an allergy.
Some common allergies, like hay fever and rhinitis, may have several negative effects on your oral as well as your overall health.
One of the most common oral symptoms of allergies is dry mouth. Dry mouth can be caused by several factors such as a decrease in body fluids or the effects of certain medications that are used to treat allergies.
Dry mouth may sound to be a minimal oral concern, but has a significant impact on destroying the health of the teeth, gums and surrounding tissues.
Nobody likes to take up extra trouble while suffering from allergies. Let’s quickly get into the article to understand the relationship between allergies and dry mouth and look at the treatment options available.
What do you mean by dry mouth?
Dry mouth, clinically known as xerostomia, is an oral health condition which occurs due to a decrease in the production of saliva or change in the composition of saliva. Reduced salivary flow often makes the mouth dry, uncomfortable and irritating. (1)
If this condition is left untreated, it can increase the susceptibility of oral infections and cause damage to the teeth, gums and the surrounding tissues.
What causes dry mouth?
There are several factors that can cause dry mouth –
- Medications – Certain drugs share a common side effect on the oral tissues and their health. For example, medicines used to treat depression, anxiety, allergies, cold, pain epilepsy, and asthma can all cause dry mouth.
- Infections – Diseases like diabetes, stroke, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and mumps, share the collective effect of dry mouth.
- Medical treatments – Radiotherapy and chemotherapy have a high impact on not just the dryness but also the health of the oral tissues. Any damage to the salivary glands or salivary duct during a surgical procedure may lead to a decrease in the production of saliva leading to dry mouth. (2)
- Nerve damage
- The habit of smoking and chewing tobacco
What is the link between allergies and dry mouth?
The correlation between an allergy and dry mouth is very common. There are typically three important links to notice between an allergy and a dry mouth.
- First link – Certain allergies, such as allergic rhinitis, are caused due to nasal blockage and congestion in the sinus. During this nasal blockage, an individual is forced to breathe through the mouth often more than usual. This increase in contact of oral tissues with the outside air and leads to dryness of the mouth.
- Second link – During allergies the body’s fluid intake decreases significantly. This affects the systemic fluid balance in the body and leads to dehydration. One of the common oral symptoms of chronic dehydration is dryness of the mouth.
- The third link – To treat allergic reactions, physicians and pharmacists recommend certain drugs like anti-histamines. Such medications can cause dry mouth and have negative side effects on oral health. (3)
What implications does dry mouth have on oral health?
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, persistent allergy and dry mouth can have adverse effects on your oral as well as overall health and well-being.
When an individual is suffering from chronic allergy, dry mouth may have long-lasting effects on oral health.
Some of the potential effects on oral health include –
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- A red, raw, dry tongue
- A sticky feeling in the mouth
- A sore throat
- Hoarseness of voice
- Difficulty in swallowing which will affect the digestion
- Difficulty in speaking
- Accumulation of plaque – saliva helps to wash away the debris and plaque from time to time and maintains the health of the teeth. Lack of saliva makes the plaque and debris stagnant, increasing bacterial load in the mouth
- Development of dental caries and gum diseases
- In severe cases, it may cause the formation of mouth sores, cracked lips, and oral infections
How can it be treated?
There are three ways in which an allergy can cause dry mouth –
- Forceful mouth breathing due to nasal congestion
Out of all the three ways, dry mouth caused by medications is far less dangerous as compared to the other two. (4) You can consult your physician and discuss the alternatives to the medications that you are taking to treat your allergy.
Some natural therapies like acupuncture and naturopathic treatments have proven to be equally useful as alternative drugs and medicines.
Consult a dentist to plan a good oral health care routine that will keep your mouth hydrated and free from oral infections.
How can you prevent dry mouth?
You can follow some of these quick at-home tips to prevent dry mouth –
- First and foremost, keep your mouth and body well hydrated. A right amount of fluid intake not only revives you from having a dry mouth but also helps to flush out the extra mucus.
- Salt water gargles are the perfect solution to draw away the congestion and the mucus in your sinuses and relieve your allergic symptoms. It also helps to reduce bacterial infections in the mouth and maintains the health of the gums.
- Regular brushing and flossing will help you to maintain the health of your teeth and remove any stagnant debris or plaque from the surface of the teeth.
- If you experience any severe effects like pain or stuffiness in the mouth, consult a dentist and ask him for advice to treat the symptoms.
Take away message
Never did it occur to one’s mind that an allergy can have significant effects on the oral health of an individual.
Allergies have a long term relationship with the dryness of the mouth. Both of these conditions are inseparable. The only way to deal with it is to take proper measures to treat them.
An allergic reaction can cause dry mouth by several factors and therefore, it is essential to identify the right cause and treat it immediately.
Following the preventive measures can save you from the misery and help you to reduce the symptoms of dry mouth significantly and maintain oral health and overall well-being.