Saliva isn’t something you probably spend much time thinking about. But did you know that everymoment of every day it affects your health? Saliva is vital for a healthy mouth, good digestion, andIt’s not really a common topic to hear people talking about, but it’s something that is almostalways there, working behind the scenes making your life easier and better. Many people who sufferfrom a chronic dry mouthhave horror stories about how terrible it is to live with little to no saliva.Speaking, eating, swallowing, and so much more requires adequate saliva to work properly.
What is Saliva?
Saliva is a liquid made of water, mucus, proteins, minerals, and an enzyme called amylase. It’s made by the salivary glands, many small organs around the cheeks, lips, tongue, and other parts of the mouth. Tiny tubes called ducts carry the saliva from the glands into your mouth. Small amounts of saliva are sent into the mouth constantly, to keep the mouth moist. Then your glands make lots of saliva, and you can notice much more of it in your mouth.
Saliva is important as pre-digestion begins in the mouth, and it’s magical that just the thought of food can switch it on. Increased salivation ensures that as soon as food hits the mouth it will be mixed with digestive enzymes, breaking down starches and fats.
Functions of Saliva
The 4 main functions of Saliva which are of key importance –
- Remineralization: Constantly bathes teeth in calcium phosphate. Teeth are 90% hydroxyapatite, the crystalized form of calcium phosphate, while enamel itself is 96% hydroxyapatite.
- Lubrication: Saliva protects the oral mucosa (oral tissues) from mechanical damage while speaking, eating, and swallowing.
- Sense of Taste: Saliva is the liquid medium through which chemicals are introduced to the taste receptor cells on the tongue (commonly known as taste buds.) Without saliva to carry these chemicals to the taste buds, it’s difficult to taste anything.
- Dental Prosthesis: In the case of people who wear removable dentures, lack of saliva makes it difficult or impossible to keep them in place. The maxillary (upper) denture supported by saliva for suction onto the hard palate.
Consult your Dentist for Care
When you don’t have enough saliva, problems start to happen. Gum disease and tooth decay can happen much more easily. If you happen to have dry mouth:
- Make sure you drink plenty of water every day. Dehydration can make you create less saliva.
- Chew sugar-free gum and suck on sugar-free candy or mints.
- See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. He or she can help prevent problems and spot them early.
- Ask your dentist about artificial saliva. He or she can prescribe a rinse or spray to help keep your mouth moist.