What Is Saliva… Really?
Most of us consider saliva to be nothing more than “spit”. An afterthought in the realm of oral health. But the truth is that saliva is one of the most underrated necessities for a healthy mouth. If your “spit” isn’t doing its job, you can forget about protecting your bright, white smile.
Overall, saliva is the clear liquid produced by glands in your mouth. Hundreds of salivary glands cover the mouth and create the wet substance all day, every day. In fact, most people product between 2 to 4 points of saliva daily. That’s equal to ¼ to ½ a gallon!
Saliva is mainly made of water, but about 1% of saliva is composed of important enzymes, blood cells, and other components that give saliva its power.
The 4 Most Important Jobs of Saliva
Saliva doesn’t move through your mouth for fun. It has several important responsibilities. When saliva can’t do its job, dental problems develop quickly.
Saliva Neutralizes Acids
Your saliva is supposed to hold a neutral pH and flow through your mouth after you eat. This neutralizes acids and creates an oral environment where good bacteria thrive.
Acidic saliva with a pH lower than 5.5 can’t dilute harmful acids in the mouth. It just makes the problem worse. As a result, unhealthy acidic saliva makes the teeth and gums more vulnerable to erosion and decay.
Your teeth are made of four different types of tissue: enamel on the surface, dentin underneath, and pulp and cementum at the core. These tissues rely on minerals like calcium and phosphate to retain strength and durability.
Sugars and acids directly threaten the tissues of your teeth. They pull minerals out of your teeth in a process called demineralization. This is a primary cause of cavities, decay, and the enamel erosion that causes tooth sensitivity.
Healthy saliva is so powerful because it contains calcium and phosphate ions that repair enamel damage and restore the strength of your teeth. As soon as healthy saliva covers your teeth, it zaps the acids causing demineralization and then replaces lost minerals.
Carries Bacteria From Mouth to Gut
Your mouth is the starting point of your digestive system. All of the bacteria, acids, and sugars that sit in your mouth travel into your gut through your saliva. This means that the condition of your mouth directly influences your overall health.
If you skip brushing and flossing or drink too much soda, you’ll ultimately swallow harmful bacteria and carry them into your gut. Systemic diseases like colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis have all been linked to oral bacteria and infection… just to name a few!
Breaks Food Down with Enzymes
Of course, saliva also supports the eating process. It softens food, helps the chewing process, and assists the digestion process. In particular, the enzyme amylase breaks down starches to help digestion begin before food even reaches the stomach.
Take These Steps For Healthier Saliva
It’s not enough to hope for healthier, more productive saliva. Take these steps to help your saliva do its job the right way.
Ditch the Chemicals
SLS, triclosan, added sugars, dyes, and other toxins and artificial ingredients are listed on many of the most popular toothpaste products out there. Do your homework by reading the labels and finding a chemical-free toothpaste that gives your mouth the chance to thrive.
Eat More Fresh, Whole Foods
You don’t need a reminder that fresh whole foods are better for your body than artificial and processed foods. But don’t forget that healthy foods protect your teeth and gums as well.
Foods rich in calcium and phosphate, for example, promote healthier saliva, teeth, and gums. Milk, yogurt, cheese, salmon, lean meat, nuts, and beans are all delicious and nutritious options to supplement your oral care routine. Leafy greens, apples, carrots, almonds, and celery also lend their own protective properties to your smile.
Drink Plenty of Water
If it seems like water is the magic elixir for everything, you’re not wrong! Human life doesn’t just rely on water for survival; we rely on water to thrive and function at optimal levels.
Drinking water regularly helps to clear food debris and plaque away from your teeth. This keeps your saliva alkaline and prevents dangerous acidity. As long as the spit flowing through your mouth keeps a balanced pH, it can banish bacteria and remineralize enamel.
Chew Xylitol Gum
Chewing gum is an easy and enjoyable way to stimulate the salivary glands and ensure that you’re never left suffering from dry mouth. But xylitol gum is especially powerful because it’s known to prevent cavities by reducing bacteria and acid production in the mouth.
Xylitol even promotes the remineralization of enamel, which no other gum can claim to do!
Visit Dr. Campbell today to get the help you need optimizing your saliva– and your dental health. You can’t have one without the other! Dr. Campbell and his team are committed to helping every patient in Long Beach, CA achieve their most beautiful smiles.