The Role of Saliva in Maintaining Oral Health

One of the primary functions of the mouth is to produce saliva. This important substance has a range of uses that are important for oral health. From helping to break down food and clear it from the mouth to protecting teeth from mineral loss, saliva is the unsung hero that protects the oral cavity in many ways. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at what saliva is and its role in keeping our oral health in top condition.

How Saliva is Produced

Inside the mouth, there are sets of saliva glands which work to produce a continuous supply of saliva. This substance is mostly made up of water, with a small percentage of proteins and bicarbonate also present. Saliva glands work continuously to keep our mouths moist, and are triggered to produce extra amounts of saliva when we eat, drink or speak.

Functions of Saliva

Saliva performs a number of roles inside the mouth that are important for the health of teeth and gums. This includes keeping the oral cavity lubricated, making it easier to chew and swallow food. It also acts as a sugar diluent, minimizing the acid produced from the things we eat or drink.

Our teeth lose enamel over time due to a build-up of plaque, which is caused by bacteria creating acid when we eat or drink. Because saliva contains bicarbonate, it works to neutralize acid and helps repair the damage.

Another benefit of saliva is that it provides an antimicrobial effect that keeps the mouth clean, reducing the chances of bad breath.

What Causes a Dry Mouth?

People who suffer from a dry mouth can be more prone to cavities and other tooth decay, because the level of saliva is not enough to perform as it should.

A dry mouth can be caused by problems with the salivary glands, be a side effect of some medications, a response to stress, or as a result of smoking or vaping.

It is also interesting to note that saliva flow changes throughout the day. During the afternoons, saliva flow is generally higher than it is in the mornings and evenings, and it reduces even more during the night.

Increasing Saliva

If a dry mouth is caused by medical issues to do with the salivary glands, your dentist will be able to assess your condition and recommend the right course of treatment. In other cases, chewing sugar free gum can help stimulate the production of saliva.

Sipping water throughout the day will help to keep your mouth lubricated and stimulate saliva production. It is also important to regulate the consumption of things that reduce saliva flow, such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol.

Another method is to choose an alcohol-free oral rinse or spray which is designed with a special formulation to improve symptoms of a dry mouth.

Saliva has an important role in our dental and oral health that should not be overlooked. If you are concerned about the health of your teeth and gums, getting professional dental advice is a great first step. For more information, get in touch with our dental team in Downtown Vancouver today.

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