Article at a Glance
- Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in and the fluids are not replaced.
- The first sign of dehydration is usually a dry mouth or what is known as dehydration tongue. Other symptoms can include extreme thirst, fatigue, headache, and disorientation.
- Dehydration can impact your oral health. Dry mouth and bad breath are some of the short-term side effects, but it also puts you at greater risk for tooth decay.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water because you’re already dehydrated. Drink water throughout the day so you don’t reach the point of thirst.
Summer is in full swing with long, sunny days and scorching temperatures. Whether you’re working in the yard, floating around the pool, or enjoying some athletic competitions, it’s important to keep well hydrated in the heat. Before heading outside this summer, know what dehydration is, how it presents, and how it can affect you.
What is Dehydration?
Do you tend to feel fatigued around midday? Is your response to grab a latte or cup of coffee? Chances are, what your body is really saying is that you need more water. Approximately 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. When a body loses more fluid than it takes in, there is not enough water for normal bodily functions. If the fluids are not replaced, the body becomes dehydrated. This can occur when you are ill (like severe diarrhea or vomiting), as a side effect of some medications, or when it’s hot outside and you don’t take in enough water to compensate.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Generally, the first sign of dehydration is a dry mouth and tongue due to insufficient saliva production which occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluids. Dehydrated tongue symptoms are dryness or roughness instead of the normal moist, pink appearance. Other symptoms of dehydration may include:
- Extreme thirst
- Little to no urination
- Rapid heartbeat
Left untreated or not treated in time, dehydration can lead to more severe complications like heatstroke, urinary and kidney issues, seizures, and low blood volume shock.
How Dehydration Affects Your Oral Health
Dehydration can also have a negative effect on your oral health. Short-term side effects are also some of the early warning signs.
- Dry mouth means you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist and digest your food.
- Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that you’re already dehydrated.
- Bad breath is caused by the build-up of bacteria because there is not enough saliva production to wash it away
Unfortunately, for people who are chronically dehydrated, there are some long-term oral health complications. When you don’t drink enough water to replace the fluids in your body, your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva which means bacteria is allowed to grow in your mouth and ultimately leads to tooth decay.
How to Stay Hydrated in Warm Weather
Once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. It’s not enough to drink water when you’re thirsty, you need to make it a part of your regular routine to prevent dehydration. The good news is, water also washes away bacteria, contains fluoride (which strengthens enamel), and encourages saliva production which means it’s great for your oral health, too.
There are plenty of ways to ensure you drink more water, like tracking your water consumption to make sure you are hitting eight 8-ounce glasses per day. Staying hydrated is crucial to your overall health and there are plenty of ways to keep hydrated!
- Chew sugar-free gum to trigger saliva production.
- Suck on ice or lozenges to keep your mouth moist.
- Choose water or sparkling water. Skip the sodas and sports drinks.
Drinking water is key to preserving your oral health, but don’t forget to visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and professional teeth cleaning. Your dentist will be able to identify early signs of trouble including tooth decay. If you’re due for a check-up, contact the Jefferson Dental Care clinic nearest you to make an appointment.