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Saliva and Dental Health

September 6, 2018 4:41 pm Published by
oral health

Saliva is important in maintaining oral health and also sustaining the different oral tissues. It consists of mostly water and different enzymes which are needed for a healthy oral cavity. It is an important ingredient for ensuring good digestion and a very important part of a healthy body.

Saliva is often thought of as being similar to what blood is for the human body. Having a correct and optimal presence and flow of saliva is needed for the overall health of the various tissues in the mouth. It is only because of the presence of saliva that major dental problems do not happen as frequently as it would, if it was not present.

Understanding the functions of saliva

The main function of saliva can be thought of as maintaining a good oral environment, some of the other important functions are:

Cleansing nature of saliva
Saliva is made up of water mostly and one of its main function is washing away or cleaning away food debris. After each meal, food residue in the mouth is cleaned away by this nature of saliva. It also acts as a lubricating agent by mixing with food particles and helping their movement along the digestive tract.

Warding off bacteria
Besides containing water as one of its main components, saliva also has antibacterial agents in it which help to fight away disease causing bacteria in the mouth. These agents help to degrade bacterial cell walls and stop their progress in the mouth and soft tissues. Bad breath in the mouth is also kept at bay due to the function of salivary glands.

Protecting enamel and teeth
Saliva is produced by different glands in the mouth – salivary, mandibular etc. This salivary secretion that is formed from the combination of different glands helps in remineralisation of the enamel with their calcium and phosphate content. The pH level in the mouth is also balanced by saliva, helps to neutralise the acidity that can develop. Teeth are protected from dental caries also because of the protective nature of saliva.

Digesting food
Saliva aids in digestion, it mixes with the food particles and lubricates them, and the enzymes in the saliva will breakdown the food and start the first phase in digestion. The taste of the food is also enhanced due to the function of this liquid.

A small but important role is also played by saliva in the speech of a person. It is the lubricating nature of the saliva that helps in this. It helps to lubricate the different organs involved in speech and aids in proper speech delivery in people.

Disorders of salivary glands

As saliva plays a very important role and aids in different functions, disorders affecting the salivary glands cause dental problems. They are caused by using some medicines like those used in the treatment of anxiety disorder asthma, drugs for blood pressure etc. Some of them are:

Dry mouth
Lubricating is one of the main functions that saliva ensures. If there is less of saliva secretion, a condition known as dry mouth results. It brings on different symptoms on the gums, tongue and the soft tissues of the mouth. It makes these organs/tissues to be dry and swollen. This is also accompanied by bad breath in the mouth.

Teeth Decay
Another function that saliva helps is to protect the teeth. They are present as a thin coating over the teeth and the bacteria are stopped from acting on the teeth and creating cavities in them.

Less or no cleaning
Cleansing action of the saliva also gets reduced if there is less saliva protection. Food particles stay in the mouth if they are not properly cleaned and result in decay of the teeth and gums. Proper movement of the food to the digestive tract also gets affected. Taste of the food also gets affected due to less amount of saliva secretion.

Excessive saliva produced
Some people also have the other condition, where too much saliva is secreted. Sometimes, the glands become overactive and produce more saliva. It is not usually seen as a problem as the body will take care of this condition by swallowing more. It would be seen as a concern if there is difficulty in swallowing.

If a person has problems with facial muscles, then there swallowing becomes difficult and drooling can be seen. Some conditions such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease – all these bring about this condition. It is better to consult a dentist in these situations to understand the problem and treat it accordingly.

Actions that can be taken

All dental disorders or conditions must be checked by a dentist. With their specialised skill and knowledge, they can guide you on the best course of treatment to be taken for the particular condition.

If one is suffering from dry mouth, some of the measures that can be considered are:

Drinking or sipping plenty of water
Sometimes this dry mouth condition could be temporary and can be relieved by sipping in water more than what is usually done.

Stopping tobacco use
Tobacco, when used either smoking or chewing, can bring about dry mouth condition. More so, this can also lead to bad breath and gum infection as due to less saliva, the bacterial action is speeded up.

Reducing the amount of caffeine that is consumed
Caffeine also can temporarily cause dry mouth. Finding alternative and cutting down on caffeine can help with the condition.

Using mouthwash that does not contain alcohol
Alcohol also causes the mouth to be drier, so one can check different products available in the market and choose the one suited to the condition.

Those mentioned above are only some simple conditions that can be tried, but they do not guarantee a complete cure. To ensure that, the best thing that can be done is consulting a dentist. Preferably this should be done, twice a year. But if these conditions dry mouth or excessive saliva production does not go away in a few days’ time, then seeking help from a dentist is what should be planned.

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This post was written by Letooth

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