why is saliva important

Why Is Saliva Important for Oral Health?

Saliva does a lot more than make your mouth water when thinking about delicious foods. When your body produces enough saliva, it balances the PH in your mouth and can sufficiently rid your mouth of harmful bacteria and food particles. At Lifetime Family Dental, we want to help you understand the elements of a healthy mouth so you can spot signs of dental issues as early as possible. Continue reading to learn why exactly saliva is so important, and how to help your body produce enough of it. 

What Is Saliva?

Saliva is a substance that your body constantly produces in order to lubricate the inside of your mouth. The major salivary glands inside your mouth are located under your tongue, near your jaw bone, and along the inside of your cheeks. When you eat, your saliva production increases to help you chew, swallow, and even begin digesting your food.

Why Is Saliva Important for Oral Health?

Saliva is predominately made up of water but it also contains enzymes, proteins, mucus, minerals, electrolytes, and antibacterial compounds. These substances protect your tooth enamel by killing bacteria and neutralizing harmful acids. 

When candy, sugary foods, citrus fruits, and acidic drinks damage your enamel, your saliva can actually help remineralize and strengthen your teeth by repairing the surface. However, saliva cannot repair severely damaged tooth enamel so it’s best to visit your dentist regularly and maintain a balanced diet.

Saliva also plays quite an important role in the digestion process. In fact, digestion actually begins in the mouth as your saliva breaks down starch and sugar. If your body doesn’t produce enough saliva, it makes it harder to swallow and digest food.

What is Dry Mouth?

You may be diagnosed with dry mouth (xerostomia) if your body isn’t producing enough saliva to consistently lubricate your mouth. Dry mouth can cause a variety of oral health issues. The lack of saliva puts your mouth at higher risk of infection and can lead to persistent bad breath known as halitosis. 

Symptoms of dry mouth include: 

  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing and speaking
  • Cracked lips
  • Dry or sore throat
  • A change in your sense of taste
  • Bad breath
  • Thick, stringy saliva

Treating dry mouth requires understanding the root cause, and there are many possible causes. For instance, dry mouth is a side effect of many medications. Dry mouth can also be a result of certain medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, and dehydration. Certain habits like smoking and mouth breathing can also result in dry mouth. 

How to Maintain Healthy Salivary Glands

You can help your body produce a healthy amount of saliva by:

  • Drinking plenty of water every day
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily
  • Limiting your intake of alcohol
  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Consulting your doctor if you suspect your medication is causing dry mouth
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for a cleaning and checkup

Gentle Dentist in Gilbert

Now that you understand why saliva is so important, you know to act fast when there’s a problem. If you are experiencing any issues with saliva production, don’t hesitate to contact Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert, Arizona. No matter the dental concern, our caring staff are happy to take a look at your mouth, find out what’s causing your discomfort and help determine the best treatment for you in partnership with your primary care physician. Call 480-558-4331 today to schedule an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/7/2022). Photo by Nicole Elliott on Unsplash