You may not be impressed with your saliva. In fact, you’ve probably often heard of it referred to as plain spit. So what’s the big deal about your saliva? Plenty! Your saliva is actually your body’s unsung super-hero. Even when you’re sleeping, your saliva works hard to protect your mouth and your overall well-being.
Before we cover how saliva helps you, how about some fun saliva stats? Did you know that your body produces between 2 to 4 pints of saliva a day? It does. In fact, the average person will create enough saliva in their lifetime to fill two swimming pools. Now that’s nothing to spit at!
So, why is your saliva so important? Besides helping you to digest your food, from breaking down food particles to swallowing, your saliva also offers a lot of support for your oral health.
Every time you eat something, your saliva defends your teeth against cavity causing bacteria. When you eat meals or snacks, you introduce bacteria into your mouth. As a warm, moist place, your mouth is the perfect playground for these bacteria to propagate. And as the bacteria builds, it creates acids that can wear away at the enamel of your teeth to form cavities. Your saliva’s antibacterial properties protect your teeth from tooth decay. It comes to the rescue by washing away extra food and debris that remain in your mouth that build the bacteria, and it also helps neutralize the acids produced from these bacteria.
Besides helping to fight off cavities, your saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate that help remineralize your teeth, which strengthens the enamel of your teeth. This helps strengthen your teeth for chewing (and less susceptible to breaks), and fortifies the enamel to shield your teeth from cavity causing acids.
There are certain foods and things you can do to help maintain and promote the production of saliva in your mouth. Chew sugar-free gum, or gum that contains Xylitol (a natural sweetener) after meals and snacks. Drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Chewing apples, celery, carrots, cucumbers and snap peas will also stimulate your saliva flow; just remember to rinse with water afterwards to help wash out some of the acids.
You should also be mindful of foods that can diminish your saliva production, such as wine, coffee, sodas (including sugar-free), sugary deserts, dry crackers and salty foods.
Many people also suffer from a condition called dry mouth, where they are unable to produce an adequate amount of saliva. While dry mouth may be linked to certain health conditions, or chronic mouth breathing, most causes of dry mouth are attributed to medications. In fact, about 80% of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth. If you suffer from chronic dry-mouth, determining the cause of it is important, as it can promote cavities, gum disease, bad breath, as well as interfere with speaking, or with swallowing food.
If you believe you suffer from dry mouth, please let us know and schedule an appointment. Dr. Beffa can help you diagnose it, as well as offer remedies to help you maintain a healthy saliva flow and keep your mouth moist.
After all, your saliva truly is the unsung hero of your oral health, and your overall well-being, so doing what you can to keep your saliva working properly is a small price to pay for the benefits it provides.