Saliva and Oral Health

Saliva ....

Consisting primarily of water, saliva plays a significant role in keeping your mouth healthy.

Saliva is produced and secreted by major and minor salivary glands which line the inner lip and soft palate. By coating and lubricating tissues saliva makes it easier to speak, chew and swallow.

Benefits of Saliva

  • Saliva contains buffering systems that help neutralize acidic foods and drinks to protect teeth and soft oral tissues from acid attacks reducing the risk for cavities.
  • Saliva moistens food during chewing so it can be swallowed and its enzymes begin the digestive process.
  • Saliva breaks down food particles that are trapped between teeth protecting them from decay.
  • Salivary buffers protect the esophagus neutralizing the reflux acids associated with conditions such as heartburn.
  • The enzymes in saliva help fight off infections by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth.

A healthy adult produces around 500ml of saliva per day but certain diseases and medicines can affect how much is produced.

People who don’t make enough saliva can develop a condition called dry mouth. Because they produce less saliva, people with dry mouth have an inability to clear food particles from their teeth resulting in an increased risk of cavities and tooth decay. Dry mouth also can lead to altered taste bad breath, mouth sores, difficulty in swallowing and oral tissue infections.

Sugar free chewing gum is one of the most effective ways to stimulate saliva production. Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum after meals results in a significant decrease in the incidence of tooth decay and that the benefit is due to stimulating salivary flow rather than any chewing gum ingredient.

Research scientists believe that in the near future saliva could be used to detect illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of developing a salivary disorder or infection. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and brush and floss teeth twice a day.
photo credit: Sandrinne Dias via photopin cc

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