When thinking of oral health everyone probably thinks of their teeth and gums and get serious about the oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing. But have you ever given a thought about saliva when it comes to oral well being?
Yes, it’s true! Saliva plays an important role in improving oral health and very effectively prevents dental caries.
What is Saliva?
Saliva is a clear liquid that is 95%water and the rest 5 % include organic molecules like lipid and glycoproteins; electrolyte such as calcium and phosphate. Around 500ml of saliva is secreted everyday but it can be stimulated by gustatory and masticatory activities. It plays an important role demineralizing, digestion process by lubricating the food and making it easy to swallow. Saliva is produced by three major salivary gland that are sublingual, submandubular and parotid; and few small glands that are placed around the dental cavity.
Saliva and Oral Cleaning
Saliva solves number of purpose from coating, lubricating, speaking, chewing, swallowing to oral cleaning. Saliva is quite important for your dental health as it removes oral waste by washing away cavity causing bacteria and protects your teeth from decaying. Anything you eat especially sugar gives rise to bacteria that produce harmful chemicals and causes tooth decay. Saliva neutralizes these acids and helps in the remineralization of tooth enamel. Presence of saliva is also effective to control bacterial and fungal growth in the mouth.
Detailed Benefits of Saliva
Have a look at the functions performed by saliva and understand the importance so that you do not face any issues in future and get yourself checked if facing issues with saliva production:
This is one of the important functions performed, saliva helps in the removal of disease causing viruses, yeast and bacteria that can easily damage the smooth surface of mouth and gums.
Before getting stuck to the teeth and oral tissues , the microbes get clump together and they are swallowed .
Everyone considers brushing and flossing as the major defense against tooth decay, of course it is but what protects you teeth when you are not brushing. It is the saliva that acts as a buffering agent and fight against acid attack. It washes away the left over particles and sugar. High starch food do not get dissolved that easily and also blocks the natural flow of saliva but saliva contains an enzyme called amylase that is powerful enough to break carbohydrate into sugar to help it digest. Phosphate ions and calcium, the two mineral salt that reverse the decay process and encourages re-mineralization.
Buffering Agent and Barrier
It is the saliva that creates a barrier and limits the presence of harmful toxins, carcinogens, toxins that are present in food, beverages, hard drinks and tobacco. It contains a buffering agents that neutralizes acidic effect of drinks and food that protects oral tissues and teeth from acid attack. These buffers also saves the esophagus from reflux acid by neutralizing it.
You might have noticed that some oral cuts and tissues damages gets healed on its own without any medication and that is possible because of the molecules that are present in saliva like Vascular endothelial growth factor(VEGF) and epidermal growth factor(EGF).
Saliva has certain immune protein that regulates the growth and maintenance of plaque biofilm that protects the mouth from any trespassing microorganisms. Once cleaned the enamel of the teeth gets coated with pellicle, a protein film that doesn’t let the bacteria to stick to the teeth and gums and gets eliminated through spit or swallowed.
Consequences of Too Little Saliva
Some medicines and disease can effect the production of saliva and lack of saliva production can cause Dry mouth(Xerostomia). It means chronic reduction in saliva formation that can cause discomfort to the gum, teeth, tongue and oral tissues. The protective shield gets affected and tends to invite germ and germy mouth can lead to bad breath, altered taste, mouth ulcers, sores and unbearable dental wear and attrition.
Dry mouth is quite common in adults though the reasons are not clear and certain identified reasons are HIV/AIDS, diabetes, parkinson’s and Sjogren’s syndrome. Dehydration, radiation and chemotherapy, salivary duct obstruction and even smoking can cause dry mouth.
How to Treat Dry Mouth?
Dry mouth is an effect of various disease and medication but can be effectively treated with few simple measures that you can perform everyday. To start with, you can make use of chewing gum that has Xylitol in it. In addition to it you can use products like tissue lubricants and artificial saliva that can be recommended by your dentist or doctor.
Artificial saliva is a spray or liquid that can be bought without prescription to keep your mouth comfortable and moist. You can further improve by brushing and flossing twice daily, avoiding smoking and caffeine, avoid found items like dry fruit,salty food, acidic juices, have plenty of water, suck on sugar free candy and do not forget to see your dentist regularly.
Excess of Saliva
It is termed as hypersalivation, ptyalism and sialorrhea which means excess of saliva production because of low saliva production . It can be due to various reason and some of the common ones are excessive intake of starch, pregnancy, pancreatitis, gastroephageal reflux disease, serotonin syndrome, oral ulcers and liver disease.
The body generally manages excess saliva as it gets swallowed and can happen when you take lot of spicy food. You can see the change by popping something really spicy and the saliva might start dripping. It also happens you take acidic food so if you a sudden change in saliva production, try changing your diet. Certain medicines like potassium chlorate, clozapine, pilocarphine or toxins like copper, mercury, arsenic are generally associated with extra production of saliva.
Used as Diagnostic Tool
Scientist, physicians and dentists are making use of salivary diagnostics to test certain promising areas instead of using using urine and blood. It is a useful source to detect numerous range of biomarkers like protein, hormones, electrolyte, DNA/RNA and antibodies to identify diseases. It has certain major advantages over other diagnostic tools as the results are cost-effective, fast result and gained patient acceptance. Viral diseases like hepatitis or HIV can be detected with this, protein level in saliva, checking of abusive drugs, therapeutic monitoring etc is possible through salivary diagnostic.