Saliva, or spit, plays an important role in keeping your mouth and teeth healthy. When reduced due to injury, illness, or medication, the mouth suffers and becomes at greater risk for developing dental decay and other diseases. Considered vital in building and maintaining the health of both hard and soft tissues of the mouth, saliva isn’t something to be taken for granted. And without it, serious oral health issues can arise.
What is Saliva?
Saliva is 98% water but also consists of electrolytes, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. Essential to the softening of food and easy digestion, saliva is also important for numerous other reasons. Its high water content makes it a natural cleanser and lubricant for the mouth, and saliva plays a substantial role in cleansing the teeth from food particles and in rinsing oral tissues of harmful bacteria that can cause tooth decay, inflammation, and infection. Saliva also has the ability to reveal systemic health issues. Because your saliva shares many properties with your blood, it can actually be used for diagnostic purposes. Finally, saliva has healing properties that may contribute to mouth wounds healing faster than injuries elsewhere on the body.
Why is Saliva So Important For Dental Health?
We’ve talked about the role saliva plays in cleansing teeth and other oral tissues of bacteria and food particles. But along with its cleansing capabilities, saliva is also considered a builder and strengthener of teeth. This is due to spit containing a high level of calcium and phosphate ions, both essential for re-strengthening and protecting teeth from acid erosion. However, saliva goes one step further in its protection of teeth – it also helps neutralize acids in the mouth, keeping the pH near neutral. This assists in combating the destructive nature of acid release when you consume simple carbohydrates. And if protecting teeth from destructive acids wasn’t enough, saliva also helps promote tooth friendly bacteria while eradicating those bacteria that produce acids.
A dry mouth isn’t a problem to take lightly. When saliva isn’t flowing it’s much harder to chew and swallow food, and meals aren’t as tasty without the enzymes in spit. Saliva plays a significant role in our oral health and enjoyment of food, so talk to your dentist at Ranchlands Dental if you suffer from dry mouth, or a lack of saliva production.