- January 22, 2021
It’s likely the only time you think about why humans need saliva is when your mouth is dry, making it difficult to swallow. When this happens, most people race for a refreshing glass of water to fix the situation. So, what role does saliva in human biology and why is it important for good oral health? You might be surprised to hear that saliva prevents cavities!
The Secret Of The Secretion
Saliva is a secretion. This is how the body produces and distributes substances from a cell, gland or organ to help facilitate a function. In the case of saliva, which is made up of about 99 percent water, small salivary glands throughout the mouth produce the secretion. When you chew or eat, your mouth produces more saliva, which also contains various enzymes that help break down food starches.
In addition to breaking down food, saliva’s primary purpose is to help protect your teeth and gums.
Saliva’s Role in Oral Health
How does saliva help prevent cavities?
Tooth decay forms from a bacterial acid that eats away at tooth enamel. Saliva helps minimize the impact of the acid (which has a low pH) by balancing it with an alkaline compound — which has a higher pH — called bicarbonate. Saliva also has anti-microbial capabilities, which can break down some oral bacteria before it has a chance to grow and attach to the surface of your teeth.
When bacterial acid is successful at breaking down tooth enamel, saliva can help the minerals that were dissolved in the process to remineralize on the surface of the teeth. Fluoride helps facilitate remineralization by attracting minerals back to the enamel.
Food and drinks that contain sugar are the biggest threat to tooth enamel. Saliva helps to dilute the sugar and wash it away from teeth before it can settle on the enamel and transform into harmful bacterial acid.
Saliva is also important to the health of your gums and the soft tissue in your mouth. The secretion lubricates the tissues, so they remain supple and feel comfortable.
Treating Dry mouth
Dry mouth — or xerostomia — can be caused by a number of factors. This includes medications and medical treatments, chronic diseases (such as diabetes) and the overconsumption of alcohol.
If you experience ongoing dry mouth, it may be time to check in with your dentist to see if treatment is necessary. There are prescription mouthwashes available that can promote the production of saliva. Don’t put off dental care during the pandemic. Your dentist should be able to provide safe services during COVID-19.
Quick fixes for dry mouth include:
– Chewing sugar-free gum.
– Avoiding alcohol and alcohol-based mouthwashes.
– Making sure to stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day.
Look to Shorewood Family Dental Care
If you need a dentist near Joliet, please contact Shorewood Family Dental Care at 815-725-5991 or book an appointment online. We are open and going above and beyond standard COVID-19 protocols to provide safe dental care. For example, we recently updated our HVAC system and implemented strict guidelines with patient safety in mind. We’d love to be your Joliet family dentist.