You’re likely familiar with the essential trio for oral health maintenance: brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups. However, have you ever considered the importance of caring for your saliva? Yes, that’s correct – the clear fluid that keeps your mouth moist and aids in swallowing plays a significant role in supporting our oral well-being.
In this blog, we will give saliva the attention it truly deserves by exploring: its composition, its many functions, and how you can keep it healthy. From its role in preventing tooth decay to its ability to aid in digestion, you’ll find out why saliva is not just something to spit out but a crucial component of your overall health.
Keep reading to uncover how understanding its functions can empower you to take better care of your oral health.
What are the components of saliva?
Saliva is a blend of various components all working in harmony to support your health. While water forms the majority, saliva also contains other elements such as mucus, proteins, mineral salts, invaluable digestive enzymes and more.
What are the functions of saliva and why is it so important for oral health?
The composition of saliva allows it to perform several functions in the body that are critical to our oral health and overall health. Keep reading to find out why it’s so vital.
Moistening and lubricating the mouth
Did you know that the normal daily saliva production is a massive 0.5 to 1.5 litres? Because of this constant production of saliva throughout the day, your mouth is able to stay moist. When triggered by chewing and swallowing food, your saliva production increases.
When saliva production reduces or stops altogether, it causes a dry mouth which can greatly impact a person’s health and overall quality of life.
As you take your first bite, salivary glands spring into action, producing saliva to facilitate chewing and swallowing. Amylase, an enzyme in saliva, plays a pivotal role in breaking down starches (complex carbohydrates), such as whole grains and vegetables, into absorbable sugars that the body can use. Another enzyme in saliva, lingual lipase, aids in fat digestion, transforming your food into a soft, mushy consistency that’s easy to swallow.
Fights germs in your mouth
Saliva protects your oral health by forming a thin protective film over your teeth, to help them stay clean. This film also prevents a buildup of bacteria and the food particles that are feeding it – warding off bad breath and oral health problems.
Saliva’s perfectly balanced pH is vital to help maintain a healthy mouth and safeguard your teeth. Saliva with an acidic pH can cause damage to your teeth and gums, and accelerate demineralisation. Keep reading to find out how you can maintain healthy pH-balanced saliva.
Protects tooth enamel and helps tooth remineralisation
Natural demineralisation of teeth occurs, but it’s not a concern until your body can’t replace what’s lost. Saliva plays an important role in remineralisation by acting as a mouthwash, neutralising acid, facilitating the rebuilding of enamel through its mineral ion content and providing a protective shield for your enamel surfaces.
How to maintain healthy saliva and prevent dry mouth
Now that you know how vital saliva is for oral health, let’s uncover how to keep it healthy.
Keeping your saliva in excellent condition comes down to various lifestyle and behavioural factors. Here are some ways to keep it in the best of health:
- Avoid/minimise intake of food and drink that can disturb your saliva’s pH such as black coffee, sugary soft drinks, wine, beer and fruit juices.
- Maintain good oral hygiene practices to reduce bacteria.
- Increase your water intake to stay hydrated. This involves sipping water frequently and ensuring you hit the adequate daily intake every day (around 2 – 2.5 litres).
- Breathe through your nose, rather than your mouth.
- Chew sugar-free gum. This will stimulate saliva production and restore your saliva’s pH balance.
- Limit your caffeine intake.
- Minimise or eliminate tobacco and alcohol use.
- If you’re a mouth breather, use a humidifier during the night to prevent your mouth from drying out.
Factors that influence saliva production
It’s important to note that there are some factors that can influence saliva production, and if you have concerns you should always consult your doctor or dentist. These include:
- Taking certain medications.
- If you’re dehydrated/not drinking enough water.
- Mouth breathing and snoring.
- Certain medical conditions.
- Ageing. Seniors, in particular, are more likely to develop dry mouth, due to a range of factors such as specific medications, changes in metabolism, health conditions, and insufficient nutrition.
If you are experiencing dry mouth or have concerns about your saliva and oral health, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of the friendly Claremont Dental dentists or give us a call on (08) 9383 1200 and we can answer any questions you may have.