Saliva is that clear, watery liquid that keeps your mouth wet and helps your food slide down your esophagus. It also begins the digestive process. Without it, your physiology would suffer, and so would your oral health, says Selden, NY dentist, Dr. Stephen Scotto-Lavino.
The many benefits of saliva
There are many benefits of saliva. Without it, your breath smells bad, and your taste buds malfunction. Plus, teeth, gums and the other soft tissues of the mouth struggle and even fail as would the rest of your body.
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a much over-looked oral condition in which the salivary glands do not produce sufficient saliva due to:
- Many medications such as antihistamines and anti-anxiety medicines
- Cancer therapies
- Cigarette smoking
- Problems with the salivary glands themselves
Your primary care physician and dentist can partner together to understand why your saliva is insufficient and suggest some common sense ways to improve it.
The reasons why saliva is so critical to your mouth and overall well-being lies in what it contains. Mostly water, your saliva has small amounts of natural substances, such as enzymes, that promote a healthy mouth. This clever mix of water and other substances provides the following oral health benefits:
Clean teeth and gums. Saliva is Nature’s own tooth and gum washer, removing from dental surfaces, gums and tongue the residues food and beverages leave behind. Food residue, particularly carbohydrates, form sticky plaque that cause cavities and gum disease.
A germ-free mouth. Along with rinsing off plaque, saliva destroys the toxic bacteria which thrive in the mouth.
A low-acid mouth. Your saliva buffers the acids found in food and in the digestive tract. Those acids actually de-mineralize, or break down, tooth enamel. After you eat, the saliva in your mouth protects your teeth from the corrosive effects of acid. This wondrous substance continues to work 30 to 60 minutes after you finish a meal or snack.
Remineralized enamel. Saliva assists in putting back calcium and phosphate naturally lost from teeth. It carries fluoride supplied in toothpaste, dental treatments and in water right where it should go–to the mineral matrix of tooth enamel.
Boosted immune system. Studies show that saliva has great anti-inflammatory properties and helps the immune system because of an ingredient called IgA, or Immunoglobulin A.
Great diagnostics. Science has discovered that saliva may be used to uncover many disease processes in the body and to look at an individual’s DNA. A saliva sample is faster and easier to collect than urine or blood.
Help your saliva production
Foster your oral health by increasing your saliva production. Dr. Scott-Lavino advises good hydration–in other words, drink plenty of water everyday because water helps salivary glands do their work. Also, chewing sugarless gum stimulates saliva.
Learn more about how something as simple as your saliva can keep your smile vibrant. Contact Dr. Scotto-Lavino to set-up your routine dental check-up and cleaning.