by West Coast Dental
Research from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control found that more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. In fact, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. There are a huge range of allergy symptoms from watery eyes and a runny nose to persistent sneezing. However, what you may not realize is that allergies could also be affecting your oral health. Experts have discovered an indirect link between allergies and some dental problems. Fortunately, there are ways to get allergy symptoms under control so that you can ensure your teeth aren’t at risk.
Types of Allergies
There are lots of different types of allergies. Those which result in symptoms that affect your mouth and oral health are usually environmental allergies. This means that they are triggered by allergens found in your environment such as dust, pollen or smoke. Allergens are usually harmless substances that the body perceives to be dangerous and sets off defenses against them.
Common Environmental Allergy Symptoms
Allergies can cause a wide range of different symptoms. You may experience just one or two, or a combination of many symptoms at once. They are likely to be more prevalent during specific allergy seasons. For example, tree pollen is at its highest during the spring. Some of the most common signs that you are suffering from allergies include:
- Watery eyes
- Red, itchy eyes
- Blocked sinuses
- Runny nose
- Stuffy head
- Sore throat
- Dry mouth
As you can see, some of these symptoms affect the mouth and throat — potentially putting you at risk of experiencing dental issues.
Allergies and Dry Mouth
A dry mouth is one of the most common symptoms associated with allergies. This occurs for two reasons. First, if your allergies cause you to experience a stuffy nose, you’ll naturally revert to primarily breathing through your mouth which causes your mouth tissues to become dry from constant contact with the air. Second, if you take antihistamines for your allergies, you may find dry mouth listed as a potential side effect.
How Dry Mouth Affects Your Teeth
Unfortunately, breathing through your mouth reduces the amount of saliva you have. This makes it extremely difficult to regulate your oral pH and can lead to high levels which can increase your risk of tooth decay. This is because unregulated acids can erode the enamel of your teeth and expose the sensitive inner layers. This can result in significant dental pain — especially when eating or drinking. Breathing through your mouth also enables a constant flow of bacteria to come inside. This can increase the likelihood of decay and gum disease.
Dry Mouth and Sore Throat
People with allergies also regularly experience a sore throat. There are several reasons for this. Postnasal drip can irritate and inflame the throat making it sore. Breathing solely through your mouth can make your throat tissues feel dry and scratchy. This can even result in a dry, persistent cough. A sore throat won’t necessarily affect the health of your teeth, but it can result in unpleasant bad breath. However, since it originates in your throat, brushing your teeth won’t really have any effect.
Allergies and Gum Disease
Gum disease is a very serious inflammatory condition caused by excess bacteria accumulating on the teeth and spreading onto the gums. Without treatment, it can lead to gum recession, tooth loss and even contribute to significant chronic health problems such as diabetes. Since open-mouth breathing invites a constant stream of bacteria in, this naturally increases the likelihood of developing gum disease. Extremely conscientious brushing using a soft-bristled toothbrush and paying close attention to the gum line is essential to remove all traces of plaque before they cause inflammation and infection of the gums.
Allergies and Tooth Pain
We already know that having a dry mouth can increase the sensitivity of your teeth and make you more likely to experience toothache. However, dental pain can also occur for another reason. Many people who suffer from allergies experience a dull ache in their teeth. This happens because mucus starts to accumulate in the hollow spaces inside the sinuses as part of the allergic response. As a result, pressure is placed on the roots of the teeth causing chronic discomfort.
How To Combat Allergies to Make Sure Your Teeth Aren’t at Risk
Fortunately, there are ways to limit the impact that allergies can have on your oral health. These are primarily focused on reducing the allergy symptoms themselves such as taking antihistamines which counteract their effects. However, since antihistamines themselves can cause a dry mouth, you’ll also have to take steps to limit the way in which this might affect your teeth. Some of the things that you can do include:
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day.
- Chewing sugar-free gum during the day to trigger saliva production.
- Avoid salty foods which could dry your mouth even further.
- Pay particularly close attention to your brushing and flossing routine to make sure that your teeth and gums are as clean and healthy as they possibly can be.
- Consider using artificial saliva which comes in a range of forms including sprays, gels and tablets that dissolve in the mouth.
If you suffer from allergies, it could be having an impact on your oral health. If you have any further questions or if you would like to get further advice and support, contact us to schedule an appointment at West Coast Dental today.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) – Allergy Facts
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) – Allergy Symptoms
American Dental Association – Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)
WebMD – Dental Health and Dry Mouth