What is the Importance of Saliva and its Impact on Your Oral Health?

What is the Importance of Saliva and its Impact on Your Oral Health?

February 1, 2023

Like many people, saliva isn’t something that you think about regularly. Saliva plays a significant role in oral and overall health. Lack of enough saliva secretion and flow in the mouth can result in a dry mouth and increase your risk of oral infections and problems. This article looks at the benefits of saliva on your oral health.

What is Saliva?

Saliva is a thick, colorless fluid that’s constantly present in the human mouth and other vertebrates. The salivary gland secures the fluid in various parts of the mouth. The primary sets of glands that secrete saliva are on the jaws’ sides, below the mandible, and below the tongue.

You can stimulate the salivary glands to produce more saliva, specifically when chewing and eating food. Thinking about your favorite pizza or chocolate can stimulate saliva secretion. That’s where the famous term “mouth-watering” originated.

Saliva comprises 99% water and other components like mucus, proteins, white blood cells, mineral salts, electrolytes, and amylase – the enzyme that breaks down starches. The secreted saliva is transported to the oral cavity through small passageways or ducts.

Benefits of Saliva

When there’s enough saliva flow in the mouth, your teeth and gums are protected from numerous oral problems like tooth decay, thrush, bad breath, and gum infections. It does this in several ways, including:

  • Balances mouth pH: Oral acids can attack the enamel, dissolving the minerals and weakening your teeth. It makes them vulnerable to fractures and infections. Saliva contains an alkaline compound called bicarbonate that helps balance the pH of the oral cavity. Acids have a lower pH, while alkaline substances have a higher Ph.
  • Saliva is anti-microbial: Saliva breaks down the cell walls of bacteria, preventing microbes from growing.
  • Saliva remineralises the enamel: Your saliva contains essential minerals like phosphorus and calcium. Saliva can help restore the enamel minerals that oral acids dissolve. It strengthens the teeth and protects them from fractures and infections.
  • Lubricates the soft tissues: Saliva also lubricates the lips, tongue, gums, and other soft tissues of the mouth and keeps them moist and comfortable.
  • Dilutes sugar: Sugar and starches we consume are the primary fuel of oral bacteria. Saliva helps dilute and wash away sugar particles, making them less harmful.

Other benefits

  • It keeps your mouth moist and comfortable
  • It helps you chew, taste, and swallow
  • It helps with digestion
  • It fights bacteria and germs
  • It keeps dentures in place

Too Much vs Too Little

Too Little Saliva

Too little saliva secretion can cause a dry mouth, also known as xerostomia. Factors like dehydration, certain medications, and pre-existing health conditions like diabetes can cause it. Consult your doctor if you have health conditions or medications that affect your oral health.

Too little saliva or a dry mouth can lead to several oral problems:

  • Mouth discomfort. The mouth’s soft tissues dry out and swell, which can be uncomfortable.
  • Loss of taste ability
  • Bad breath
  • Fungal infections or oral thrush
  • Periodontal or gum disease. The gums can become inflamed by oral acids and bacteria.
  • Tooth decay. A dry mouth encourages bacteria buildup in the mouth, increasing your risk of bacterial infections.
  • Digestive problems. Lack of moisture and asymmetric action of amylase, proper breakdown of food may not happen, resulting in digestive issues.

How to Manage Dry Mouth

  • Drink plenty of water and fluids
  • Suck on sugar-free candy
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Notify your doctor or dentist if dry mouth persists
  • Avoid dehydrating foods and drinks like alcohol, tobacco, and salty and spicy foods
  • Improve oral hygiene and health

Too Much Saliva

Having too much saliva isn’t as worrisome as having too little. Excess saliva secretion can happen when you eat spicy foods or have swallowing problems. Acidic foods tend to stimulate more saliva secretion than sugary foods. However, if it happens all the time or too regularly, you should speak with our dentist in Phoenix, AZ.

Conditions and diseases that can cause excessive saliva to include:

  • Stroke
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Bell’s palsy Poisoning
  • Rabies
  • Poisoning
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • An enlarged tongue (macroglossia)
  • Pregnancy

Medications that can cause excess saliva include:

  • Seizure medicines like Klonopin
  • Salagen – used to treat dry mouth
  • Schizophrenia medicine like clozapine

Schedule an Appointment Today

For more information about oral health care, contact We Care Dental to speak with our dentist in Phoenix, AZ.

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