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The Dry Adolescent Mouth

Not long ago a young boy was sent to me by his dentist for evaluation. The boy had developed fifteen cavities, which his dentist said had suddenly appeared. Previous fillings were failing around the edges, his teeth were sensitive, and his gums were bleeding. This boy’s dentist was worried about the number of new cavities and the fact that as soon as they were filled, more appeared. The boy’s mother was concerned that the child was not eating well. The dentist and the mother were considering the possibility that the boy’s soft teeth were symptoms of a calcium deficiency.
I sat the young man in my dental chair and examined his medical history and his damaged teeth. I talked to him about TV programs and, as we chatted, I asked which kind of soda he liked to drink. It turned out that he routinely took soda to bed and drank it while he watched his favorite late-night TV show. New braces made it impossible for the boy to close his mouth, which left his upper and lower front teeth completely unprotected and dry. Acidity from the soda promoted the growth of harmful bacteria which themselves produced more acidity as they multiplied, as well as poisons that caused gum irritation and bleeding. Compounding these problems were the hormonal changes of adolescence, which slow the flow and alter the chemistry of saliva, interfering with the natural healing of teeth. In his dry adolescent mouth, the soda and undiluted acids from harmful bacteria were destroying his teeth by direct contact and promoting a rampant dental disease that was attacking his gums and the tooth enamel all around his mouth. Poor toothbrushing made his situation worse and had allowed dangerous bacteria to multiply into thick, infected plaque that produced even more acidity and was damaging tooth enamel underneath the sticky layers.
The combination of all these factors created the most dentally dangerous conditions possible in the boy’s mouth. With a dry mouth and adolescent hormonal changes, his natural repair process had virtually stopped. Without any balance from natural repair, only damage was occurring—damage from acidic drinks, harmful acid-producing bacteria, and acidic saliva. A calcium deficiency did not seem to be any real concern, and we decided to start addressing these obvious reasons by controlling the acidity that appeared responsible for the rapid tooth breakdown.
 This situation shows how the perfect storm can trigger a progressive, destructive disease that escalates in severity without corrective help. It is also a clear example of how fillings cannot control dental disease.
The cavities on this teenager’s teeth seemed to have appeared suddenly, but in fact the problems probably reached crisis point over some time before they were noticed. The acidic and dry conditions had allowed his teeth to be eroded and weakened all over his mouth until eventually fifteen teeth disintegrated at the same time. Enamel strength had dissolved over many months, possibly years. The tipping point had most likely been reached when braces were put on his teeth, drying his mouth even more and preventing any reversal of the damage by remineralization. The boy’s potentially controllable problems were late-night snacking and poor oral hygiene, but his personality made me believe these habits would be difficult to change, so we needed to consider other options.
For this teenager the first home care priority was to have him use a mouth rinse that would help strengthen his teeth while he slept. A disinterested teen is more likely to rinse a couple of times a day with a good-tasting rinse than undertake complicated oral-care procedures such as flossing around braces. Selecting an appropriate rinse not only will serve to help strengthen tooth enamel but also will concentrate in plaque deposits and inactivate damaging bacteria. In addition to the rinse, I suggested some good-tasting xylitol mints which I knew he would like and a xylitol breath spray to help eradicate the harmful bacteria of dental disease. Within six months this boy’s situation had noticeably improved; his teeth regained strength and his gums became healthier. Other rinses were added to his program and a shine began to show on the tooth enamel around his braces. Now was a good and appropriate time to fix any dental damage with fillings, and we could expect these new fillings to last longer than before.
Factors well beyond your control may have upset the delicate balance necessary to protect your teeth and may have left you vulnerable to cavities, plaque buildup, and continuous dental problems.10 This situation needs to be controlled and the regular use of xylitol with special tooth-strengthening rinses will help people who may have tried other systems without success. With the extra help provided by these select products, patients with dry or acidic mouths often gain control over their dental problems and bring an end to their ongoing and expensive dental treatments.
While we sleep, all of us have less saliva and drier, more acidic mouth conditions than during the day. Consequently, our teeth are at increased risk during the night. The extra dryness in our mouths makes it vitally important that we use a balanced and protective oral-care routine every night before going to sleep and ideally again in the morning at the start of our day.

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