The Triad

Gum Recession + Dry mouth -> Root Surface decay or Tooth Erosion

We’ve all heard the expression “you grow long in the tooth” as you age.  What this is actually referring to is gum disease.  Once the gums have receded this exposes the soft root surface of the tooth, which can easily be damaged through brushing too hard or decayed through not brushing enough. The end result is a tooth which is effectively ring barked, leaving it sensitive and vulnerable to breaking.

Saliva is the body’s natural protection against decay; consequently root surface decay is most common in people who are also having trouble with dry mouth.

The solution needs to address all 3 problems:

  1. Fix the decay
  2. Stop the gums receding further
  3. Address the dry mouth

Saliva And Dry Mouth

Saliva is the bodies natural protection against tooth decay.  It’s not just water, it’s filled with powerful natural antimicrobials and minerals which protect the teeth.  It is also essential for enjoying many of the great things in life like eating, speaking and kissing.

Have you ever noticed getting a dry mouth?  Saliva is only produced when we are well hydrated.  Unfortunately many of us don’t drink enough water day-to-day, which means our teeth are lacking their natural protection.

Often when we do rehydrate we choose acidic sugary drinks, like juice, soft drink or even wine. These drinks can actually exacerbate the problem, leaving our teeth more prone to dental decay and tooth erosion.

Many medications also commonly cause a dry mouth.  It may not be possible to change your medication, but there are a variety of products which can help to relieve the feeling of a dry mouth and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

A simple saliva test and discussion with your dentist/hygienist around the likely cause of your dry mouth can significantly reduce the risks of developing a problem.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer was previously a problem seen mainly in smokers. Unfortunately the problem today is increasingly common in young people and is thought to be caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  Early recognition is key.

As part of a routine dental examination, we also check the health of your gums, checks, lips and tongue to check for oral cancer.

What If You’ve Already Been Diagnosed Or Received Treatment?

Head and neck cancer can be debilitating. It can also mean the loss of many teeth and also a permanent dry mouth from the removal or radiation of salvia glands.  Radiation can also cause changes in collagen structure of the teeth predisposing them to dental decay.

Prevention is key, at Coorparoo Family Dental we have looked after many patients following head and neck cancer treatment and understand the difficulties that can arise with it.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us.


Gum Disease