Why is Saliva So Important to Your Overall Oral Health?

Why is Saliva So Important to Your Overall Oral Health?

Saliva is not a topic most people think about when it comes to staying healthy.  But saliva is a vital part of a healthy body, mouth, good digestion and more. What exactly is saliva and why is saliva so good for your body?

What is Saliva?

Saliva is more important than most people realize.  It is made up of 98 percent water but also contains proteins, minerals, electrolytes, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes.  Saliva keeps your mouth moist for comfort, lubricates as you chew and digest your food, and neutralizes harmful acids.  Saliva kills germs and prevents bad breath, works to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, protects your teeth’s enamel, and helps in the healing process of wounds.

Saliva comes from the salivary glands, which are located inside your cheeks, under your tongue, and near your jawbone.  On average, a person will produce 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day. Saliva moves through tiny tubes called salivary ducts from the glands into your mouth.  Small amounts of saliva stream into your mouth continually to keep your mouth moist and kick into high action when you eat.  These glands produce a lot of saliva, and you may notice there is much more in your mouth while you eat.

Why is Saliva so Important?

Research shows saliva helps your body protect against gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral infections.  Saliva functions as a thin film over your teeth to protect against bacteria, and contains antimicrobial agents to kill disease-causing bacteria.  Saliva acts to dislodge any food in your mouth that may feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Saliva neutralizes acids in your mouth that breaks down tooth enamel and protects the tooth’s surface in a process called remineralization.  The calcium, phosphorus, fluoride and other minerals contained in saliva provide protection for the enamel surfaces of your teeth and aid in keeping your teeth strong.

The enzyme amylase in saliva helps you digest properly by breaking down starch, maltose, and dextrose into smaller molecules. 

What is Dry Mouth?

If you do not produce enough saliva in your mouth, this condition is commonly called dry mouth which may lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath and difficulty with swallowing and digesting food.

Too little saliva may be caused by health conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV/AIDS.  Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy may cause dry mouth. Poor nutrition and the use of certain drugs are thought to play a key role in dry mouth.

There are several treatments available to help with dry mouth such as drinking water frequently, chewing sugar-free gum, using mouth rinses and scheduling regular check-ups with your dentist.

Dr. Melchers and his experienced staff are here to address all of your oral health care issues and care about your overall wellness. Contact us today at info@oldmtpleasantdentistry.com to see how we can best meet your dental care needs.