EVER THINK ABOUT HOW GREAT your saliva is? Probably not. Saliva has an all-important role in your oral and digestive health.
Saliva Has Many Important Functions
Our bodies make two to four pints of saliva a day. That means that over a lifetime, a person will create enough saliva to fill two swimming pools! So, why is saliva important? Well, there’s more than one answer to that. Besides allowing us to give wet willies or make spit wads when we were kids, our saliva has many important functions.
First, saliva aids in digestion. It begins the process of breaking down food and helps us chew, taste and swallow. In fact, without our spit, we wouldn’t be able to taste at all!
Additionally, saliva is essential to maintaining our oral health. Our spit contains antimicrobial agents that protect teeth and defend against bacteria. It also contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate that remineralize our teeth, strengthening the enamel.
Your saliva plays an especially important role after eating and drinking. It washes away that extra food and debris left in your mouth that contributes to decay. It also helps neutralize the acids created by bacteria that break down enamel and cause cavities. Thank you, saliva!
Some People Do Not Create Enough Saliva. That's right anyone from teenagers to geriatric adults can have saliva problems. The amount of saliva is important for moisture, washing away debris and digestion, but the ability to buffer acids in our mouths is the other most important part of saliva. So at any age one can get cavities if saliva is not present in enough quantities and also if it is not capable of buffering acids from foods and beverages properly. If you or someone you know has a good diet that is low in sugars and carbohydrates and brushes and flosses regularly but still gets cavities, you might want to see how good the saliva is at buffering acids.
Some people have a condition called dry mouth, where they aren’t producing enough saliva. This can happen typically as we age, however.... Certain illnesses and medications can cause dry mouth, and those who have it are more prone to tooth decay and gum disease as a result. For those with and without dry mouth, here are some tips to increase saliva production and protect your teeth:
Chew sugar-free gum, especially after meals
Suck on sugarless candy
Drink plenty of water
Saliva Works Around the Clock to Protect Our Smiles
Saliva may just be the unsung hero of our oral health. It is constantly strengthening and defending our teeth against bacteria, decay and dental disease. At the end of the day, all we can say is that our bodies are amazing and our spit is awesome!
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