You probably don’t give a great deal of thought about the importance of having enough saliva in your mouth. However, if you think of it like the body’s bloodstream you will soon realize just how important it is.
Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of soft and hard tissues. An important job that saliva performs is to lubricate the mouth, making chewing and swallowing more comfortable. It also helps to remove left over food from your mouth and provides a first line of defense against bacterial attacks. The type of bacteria which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and other issues affecting oral health.
Saliva is mostly water (98% in fact) but it is the 2% which makes the critical difference to how essential it is. In this 2% are small amounts of substances such as proteins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes and antibacterial compounds.
- Saliva is derived from blood. It is therefore frequently used to detect diseases of many different types.
- Dehydration lowers saliva production so dinking plenty of water every day will help keep your mouth moist.
- Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates the production and flow of saliva. This in turn helps to clean left over food from your mouth. In essence, the production of saliva will help reduce the build up of plaque and the acid it produces. And to be clear; fighting plaque is perhaps the most critical factor in protecting your teeth and gums.
- Saliva enhances tooth enamel by contributing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. These minerals maintain the integrity of the enamel surface which helps protect against caries.
- When there is less saliva, the liquid film covering your teeth can thin out or disappear. This makes it much easier for bacteria to attach itself your teeth and gums. This important layer of protection is lost and your oral health can suffer as a result – much in the same way body tissues suffer when the circulation of blood is cut or disrupted.
- Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing and swallowing (even speaking in severe cases). And a major cause of xerostomia is medication. Common culprits are medicines for allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, anxiety and depression. In fact roughly 80% of the most commonly prescribed medications will interfere with the production of saliva which can lead to dry mouth. Those suffering xerostomia may wish to avoid foods that are acidic, salty or spicy – these will typically dry and irritate your mouth as will drinks containing caffeine or alcohol.
What to do if you have dry mouth?
If you are suffering from dry mouth, please ask about artificial saliva or other available treatments. In some cases, a prescription rinse or spray may help to keep your mouth moist. Your saliva is important for your oral health both in preventing diseases and in helping to diagnose them.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call Dr. Slate at her dental office in Lakewood TX.