The health benefits of drinking water throughout the day are widely known. Because the human body is mostly composed of water (i.e., about 60%), we need water to replenish the moisture lost through the lungs, skin, and digestive system. Water helps the body carry nutrients to the cells and dispose of waste products. While dehydration symptoms, beginning with thirst, may not be evident at first, they can include headaches, dizziness, dry skin, and a parched tongue. It can put a stop to your plans.
Water intake can also have a significant influence on your oral health as well. As family dentists in Utah’s arid climate, we have seen first-hand the effects of dehydration in the mouths of our patients. Making a conscious choice to include water breaks into your day can help to maintain and even improve the health and strength of your teeth and gums.
1. Moisturizes the Mouth
Just as you would apply lotion to dry skin, water topically soothes and hydrates dry mouths. In the mouth, saliva is the body’s first line of defense. Made of 99% water, it is responsible for rinsing away foreign particles and bacteria. It also dilutes acids that may result from the food we eat or from bacteria in the mouth.
When the mouth is chronically dry, it cannot produce normal levels of saliva. The mouth and throat feel dry and scratchy. Lack of saliva leads to a condition known as xerostomia. Without saliva to wash away bacteria, this condition leaves the mouth vulnerable to infection and tooth decay.
2. Cleans the Mouth
Brushing and flossing are the two best things that you can do to keep your mouth clean. Done correctly, they can remove the majority of the food and bacteria from tooth surfaces. What about between meals and snacks, though?
Each time we eat, small food particles find their way into the nooks and crannies of our mouths. If you don’t plan to brush and floss after you eat, an excellent alternative is drinking water. Water not only physically washes away food particles in hard-to-reach places, but it stimulates saliva production. It is an easy, convenient means to engage your body’s natural defenses. Water can also rinse away drinks like coffee or wine that may naturally stain teeth.
3. Strengthens Tooth Enamel
Water straight from the tap typically contains trace minerals. Many of these minerals can be incorporated into the tooth enamel to replace those lost to erosion. Understandably, many people choose not to drink tap water either because of its taste or the presence of other contaminants. While bottled water and filtered water contain lower levels of these substances, it is important to note that distilled water or water filtered by reverse osmosis will not contain any trace minerals. If you drink primarily filtered water, fluoride treatments through your dentist’s office may be a good option to make sure your enamel remains strong.
4. Combats Morning Breath
The offensive odor that you may sometimes notice in the morning, known as morning breath, is primarily the result of a dry mouth. The dryness, caused by sleeping with your mouth open or resulting from a decrease in saliva production at night, creates an environment where bacteria can thrive. The bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds during the night, giving you breath that drives away loved ones when the sun comes up. Sipping water throughout the day will wash away bacteria and food particles, contribute to proper hydration, and help keep this smelly problem under wraps.
5. Builds Strong Teeth
The teeth in your mouth are actually bones. However, these bones contain more minerals than most of the other bones in your body. They require constant nourishment to stay strong. Your saliva contains minerals such as calcium, fluoride, and phosphorus to serve this very purpose. It bathes your teeth in a mineral-rich solution.
In many locations, fluoridated water does the same thing. Each time you take a sip from your glass, fluoride washes over your teeth. While fluoridated water has become a topic of debate in recent years, it is still recommended by many health organizations. The American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Medical Association still stand by their conclusion that adding fluoride to drinking water builds stronger teeth and prevents tooth decay down the road.
If you look around at the supermarket, there are thousands of beverage choices, from sugary sodas to juice boxes, milk, and shakes. Most of them contain natural or added sugars that feed oral bacteria, creating acids that erode our teeth. While some beverages are healthier choices than others, water is the one that ours bodies and our mouths need the most. Replacing your daily soda with a glass of water can cut back on calories, tooth erosion, and help keep you hydrated too. You can’t go wrong with water.