Hey there, dental enthusiasts and the not-so-dentally-obsessed! Today, we’re taking a closer look at the secret superhero of our mouths — saliva. Yes, that watery substance we often take for granted is more than just a lubricant; it's a powerhouse of oral health and it’s time we started paying more attention to it.
So, grab your toothbrush, and let’s explore the many functions of saliva and its vital role in maintaining teeth and gum health.
What does saliva contain?
Let's start with the basics. Saliva is a whopping 98% water, as well as a dynamic cocktail of proteins, electrolytes, minerals, and mucus. But that is not all; it also contains enzymes like amylase that kick starts digestion as well as antimicrobial agents that fight off the villains lurking in your mouth.
What does saliva do?
Saliva keeps the mouth moist, lubes up the chewing and swallowing process, and neutralizes those nasty acids. It even shields your teeth enamel and speeds up the healing of oral wounds. In other words, it’s like your oral army, ready to defend against cavities, bad breath, infections, gum disease, and more. A lot more than just ‘spit’ after all, huh?
Where does saliva come from?
We stimulate saliva production when we chew. The harder you chew or suck on a hard candy, the more saliva you generate. Orchestrating this process are the salivary glands, six major and numerous minor ones. They reside inside each cheek, near the bottom of the mouth, and close to the front teeth by the jaw bone, connected by salivary ducts.
Typically, the body produces 2 to 4 pints of saliva daily, peaking in the late afternoon and decreasing at night. However, individual norms vary, making diagnosing saliva-related issues quite tricky for doctors.
What is the function of saliva in pH control?
Saliva is your body's own pH regulator, maintaining a delicate balance to keep your mouth in a happy, non-acidic state. What’s the ideal pH of saliva for optimal oral health? Think of it like the Goldilocks principle — not too acidic, not too alkaline, just right.
Having too alkaline or acidic saliva leads to tooth erosion, enamel loss, cavities, and perhaps sensitivity to cold or hot beverages. But if your saliva pH is well-balanced, it can remineralize the enamel and fight off the bacteria causing tooth decay. The sweet spot is between 6.2-7.6, and it’s highly dependent on your diet, so try to consume more alkaline and less acidic foods.
Baking soda is a great way to neutralize your saliva pH. Check out my previous blog here
When saliva plays the villain: Signs to watch out for and at-home solutions
But, and there's always a 'but,' sometimes our superhero turns rogue. When your salivary function hits a roadblock due to certain diseases, meds, or lifestyle choices, you can expect a few unwelcome guests:
Dry mouth (aka xerostomia) is usually a result of not enough saliva. Reduced saliva flow means swelling and discomfort around the gums, tongue, and mouth tissues. Oh, and brace yourself for a taste bud rebellion as things won't taste the same for a while.
↪ Tip: Avoid mouth-breathing, both during the day and night, working on a proper lip seal and tongue posture. Check out the mouth tape and relevant solutions I recommend to my patients on my Amazon store. Sucking on Ice Chips Candy will also help manage dry mouth.
Too little saliva can also lead to bad breath or halitosis. A dry mouth creates the perfect environment for germs, resulting in more sulfur-producing bacteria in the tongue and throat that ultimately cause the bad breath bash.
↪ Tip: Replace traditional sugar-loaded mints with Happy ppl xylitol gums to balance your oral pH and BasicBites arginine chews to support your oral microbiome. Xylitol sprays and rinses like the Allday dry mouth spray and TheraBreath mouthwash will also help keep the ‘morning breath’ at bay.
If your saliva isn’t in tip-top shape, it won’t fight the bacteria in your mouth or reverse the early stages of tooth decay by repairing tooth mineral. Say hello to toothache, discoloration, plaque buildup, visible holes, and more.
↪ Tip: Use one of my recommended toothpastes with fluoride and/or hydroxyapatite to strengthen enamel and fortify your teeth against the onslaught of acids. Oh, and don’t forget to clean between those chompers with the help of innovative products from my Amazon store, from interdental brushes to water flossers.
Ever cringed at the sensation of hot or cold foods? Blame it on your saliva throwing acid attacks on your teeth. Sensitivity is a signal that your mouth's defense mechanisms need a boost.
↪ Tip: Understanding your saliva's unique composition allows for preventive treatment and tailored solutions, putting you back in command of your oral health. For a professional deep dive, ask your dentist about the Saliva-Check BUFFER from GC America. For the DIYers, check out the Just Fitter pH test strips on my Amazon store and discover your saliva's secrets from the comfort of your bathroom.
Without a healthy saliva's cleanup contribution, acids and food particles camp out on your teeth, turning them into prime locations for cavities.
↪ Tip: CariFree oral rinse is like a VIP treatment for your saliva, reinforcing its protective capabilities and leaving your mouth minty fresh, and cavity-free. Most dental clinics have in-office dispensing, but, yes, you guessed it — I've got the at-home version on my Amazon store for those who prefer a DIY oral spa session.
So, what is the function of saliva in your oral health?
In one word: Crucial. In the end, remember: your saliva isn't just spit; it's your mouth's very own superhero. Treat it well, and it'll fight tooth and nail to keep your oral kingdom intact. So, with that in mind, here's the part where you become the hero of your own oral health saga.
Check out my Amazon store for all these fantastic products and discover reliable sidekicks in the battle against oral villains. And, hey, if you want more wisdom dropped, bring me into your next study club as a speaker. Let's make your next meeting the coolest dental gathering since forever!