Saliva is something that you probably put very little thought into, but it’s actually integral to the health of your teeth and gums! Did you know the average person can produce 2-4 pints of saliva every day? This liquid helps keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy, so it’s important to do everything you can to maintain a healthy production of saliva as part of great oral health.
What exactly is Saliva?
Saliva is almost entirely made up of water with some additional minerals, proteins, mucus, and an enzyme called amylase. Saliva is made as you chew so the more you chew the more saliva you make. Sucking on hard candies helps your body produce saliva too. Saliva is basically lubrication for your mouth, though it has many properties that help maintain and improve mouth health as well.
How does Saliva help your teeth?
Cleans leftover food off your teeth – Saliva helps to wash food particles off your teeth, which helps keep gums and teeth clean. Food bits getting stuck in your teeth can lead to the formation of plaque so adequate saliva production is an important step in maintaining mouth health. Foods that are sticky or starchy are the biggest culprits when it comes to particles sticking to your teeth, and the stickier the food the longer it can stay stuck.
Prevents cavities – The longer that food bits stay stuck to your teeth, the more likely they are to lead to acid buildup which often results in cavities. Acid in your mouth contributes to your tooth enamel wearing down and becoming more susceptible to holes being formed, which become cavities. Saliva helps rinse your teeth off so that plaque doesn’t form as quickly.
Minerals in saliva help to repair tooth enamel – Saliva contains minerals like fluoride, phosphorous and calcium that all play a part in repairing damaged tooth enamel so that your teeth are better able to fend off cavities.
Lubricates your mouth – Have you ever had such a dry mouth it was almost hard to talk? That can happen when your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva. Your mouth needs lubrication to stay moist and comfortable, and to properly chew and swallow your food. It even helps you taste your food!
Neutralizes acid – Acid is the mortal enemy of your teeth. Things like fruits, soda and candy introduce acid to your mouth, increasing the pH balance and creating a harmful environment for your teeth and gums. Acid leads to tooth decay and gum disease, but adequate amounts of saliva help to balance out these acids and wash them out of your mouth.
Fights germs in your mouth and prevents bad breath – Saliva helps the bacteria that is pretty much always present in your mouth to be rinsed out. When bacteria stay put and doesn’t get rinsed out it can result in bad breath.
Promotes wound healing – Wounds in your mouth can heal quicker with the cleaning properties in saliva. Since saliva helps balance out pH and rinse acid and food particles from your mouth, mouth wounds also get rinsed out frequently.
How to help saliva production:
- Drink enough water. Staying hydrated maintains saliva production
- Ensure your medications don’t cause dry mouth
- Chewing gum and sucking hard candies can increase production
- Brush and floss regularly
- Visit your dentist for check ups regularly
- Be mindful of what you eat. Spicy and salty foods can dry out your mouth. Alcohol and caffeine can too.
Routine Oral Care is the best defense
Saliva can help your mouth stay clean and healthy, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Staying on top of your oral care routine is really the most important thing you can do to maintain mouth health. Brushing and flossing daily are the best thing you can do to ensure your teeth stay cavity free and your gums can fight off gum disease.
Visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and check ups is another big piece of the mouth health game. Taking preventative measures to ensure you stay on top of any potential concerns is the easiest way to keep your mouth and teeth healthy. Most dentists recommend coming in every six months for a cleaning, but you should talk to your dentist to work out the best plan for your mouth.