The Role Of Saliva
WHY DO WE NEED SPIT? It’s a pretty important question in the realm of oral health. People tend to think of it in a negative context. But, without spit, we would have a hard time chewing, swallowing, or even tasting our food. We also wouldn’t speak clearly, and our teeth and gums would be much more vulnerable to problems like gum disease and tooth decay.
Healthy Saliva Production
Our saliva is produced continuously by salivary glands in our cheeks and beneath our tongues. The average output ranges from two to six cups a day! About 98% of saliva is water, but the final 2% is essential. The 2% contains proteins, electrolytes, and digestive enzymes that start breaking down food. Also, it has antimicrobial factors that fight germs and minerals to keep our tooth enamel strong!
Saliva Works In Different Phases
Depending on how far along the digestive process is, our salivary glands produce extra saliva for different reasons. When we smell a mouthwatering dessert, that’s the cephalic phase. Second, the buccal phase when we start eating helps us swallow food. After that, the esophageal phase kicks in to move the food down to the stomach.
There’s also a less pleasant phase: the gastric phase. If we’re sick or there’s something wrong with the food we ate, and we have to vomit, the salivary glands work overtime to make a protective coating of saliva. The protective coating minimizes the damage stomach acid can do to our teeth and gums on the way out. (But, we should still swish with water and brush our teeth half an hour later to get rid of any remaining stomach acid.)
How Saliva Protects Our Teeth
Why does an extra coating of saliva help protect our teeth and gums against acid? A primary job of saliva is keeping the pH of our mouths as close to neutral as possible. A neutral pH keeps our tooth enamel strong. Tooth enamel might be extremely hard, but it is very vulnerable to erosion from acids in the foods we eat and fluids we drink. That’s why it is is so important for oral health!
Beyond neutralizing acids, it fights harmful bacteria that cause gum disease and bad breath. Spit is also why oral injuries (such as a bitten cheek or a burned tongue) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. It contains growth factors that promote quicker healing!
When There Isn’t Enough Spit
Given all the crucial functions saliva performs, it should be no surprise that dry mouth (lack of saliva) can lead to many oral health complications. Stressful situations, mouth breathing, dehydration, a smoking habit, drinking, side effects of medications, or even simple ageing can cause dry mouth. Therefore, it is something you should share with your dentist.
The Dentist Can Help With Dry Mouth
Dry mouth can include symptoms like difficulty chewing and swallowing and a reduced sense of taste. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let the dentist know. You deserve to have all the benefits that come with having enough saliva. The dentist can help!
We love our patients’ smiles!
Do you suspect you have dry mouth? Head over to our appointment page to request a visit!
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.
*Images sourced via Canva Premium Licence