We are now in heat wave season in Michigan. When the sun beats down we all try to cool off, whether that’s drinking cold drinks, jumping in the pool, or cranking up the air conditioning. Heat is uncomfortable, and in some cases excessive heat is even life threatening. What effect does hot weather have on your oral health, and what can you do to beat the heat and stay hydrated?
Heat and Your Teeth
The good news is that hot weather really should not affect your teeth at all. All over the world people live in hot places and manage to maintain their smiles. Heat does have an effect on saliva, however. You may think of saliva, or spit, as gross or just something that exists to help you swallow and digest food. Saliva is more versatile than that, though. It prevents excessive build up of plaque and bacteria and, therefore, bad breath, gum disease, and cavities. So saliva is important, and you need to make sure you are hydrated so your mouth makes enough of it.
Having said that, the things you do to make yourself more comfortable in hot weather can have an effect on your oral health. First, people drink more when it’s hot. This is good when they drink water, but it’s not so good when they drink a lot of soda or sugary drinks. These sugars feed the bacteria in your mouth which can lead to cavities and gingivitis. Diet sodas aren’t any better for your health either. If you do drink sodas, sugary juices, or energy drinks, make sure to brush your teeth more often or at least rinse them well with water after you are finished drinking.
Signs of Dehydration
Your body tells you it is getting dehydrated by making you feel thirsty, but not everyone feels the sensation of thirst as acutely. Older people are much more likely to get dehydrated accidentally because they don’t feel thirsty. People with certain conditions or on medications that affect fluid balance may need to drink more or less based on what their doctors advise – regardless of whether they feel thirsty. If you are worried about whether you are dehydrated, you can check your urine. If it’s clear or light yellow, you should be taking in enough water. If your urine is dark yellow, you need to drink more. Other signs of dehydration include dry mouth, fatigue, headache, confusion, or lightheadedness.
How to Stay Hydrated
This is an easy one. In hot weather, you need to drink, drink, and drink some more. Drink about 30 to 50 fluid ounces per day throughout the day. This is the equivalent of one to one and a half liters of water per day or 6 to 8 8-ounce glasses of water. Of all the types of beverages, water ensures healthy hydration best. You can also absorb the water you need for hydration from drinking milk, tea, and even coffee. Drinks with lots of caffeine in them are not the best for restoring water levels in the body, though, as caffeine is a diuretic.
Eating water-rich foods like salads, watermelon, or soups helps too. A good strategy is drinking water with every meal and when you feel thirsty and adding more water-rich foods when the outdoor temperature spikes. Also, take a water bottle with you wherever you go, especially if you’re exercising. You don’t need to buy bottled water. Tap water is fine.
Dehydration doesn’t give you cavities or yellow teeth, but it does affect your health and wellness. We at Dental Associates of West Michigan want the best overall health for our patients. When it’s hot this summer, don’t forget to stay hydrated! Your body will thank you.