At times, saliva can seem like a liquidy nuisance making your mouth uncomfortably watery. Other times, saliva is nowhere to be found and your mouth feels like a desert in the middle of summer. So, what does saliva really do and how can it help your oral and overall health. Let’s take a deeper dive into the watery world of saliva.
What is Saliva?
Saliva, or spit, is the liquid inside of your mouth responsible for breaking down your food, rinsing sugars from your teeth, and protecting your body from bad bacteria. First, saliva uses an enzyme called amylase to turn a piece of bread into small molecules that your body can digest. Next, saliva is a fluid that rinses over your teeth washing away bacteria that can cause decay and cavities. Lastly, saliva fights off bacteria that want to harm your body from entering with the enzyme called lysozyme. This same enzyme is also in your tears preventing bacteria from entering the body through the eyes. It turns out, saliva does a lot of good!
What if I Don’t Have Enough Saliva?
If you don’t eat or drink for a few hours, your saliva production will probably decrease causing dry mouth and even bad breath. Not only is this uncomfortable and possibly smelly, but it can also even cause cavities. As you may remember from before, saliva washes of bacteria. Without saliva, the bacteria can eat away the outer layer of your tooth called enamel, therefore developing a hole in this tooth. This hole of decay is a cavity and if it is not treated right away, you may need a filling to prevent the cavity from increasing in size and potentially losing the tooth. Staying hydrated and chewing sugar-free gum are both ways that you can improve your saliva production and avoid decay.
Medical Conditions for Less Saliva
If you stay hydrated, but you still experience a low level of saliva, there could be a medical cause. Common conditions that lead to low saliva levels are salivary stones, salivary gland infection, cysts, tumors, infections, and Sjogren’s syndrome. In these cases, you may experience pain, fever, and swelling of the gland which may look like swollen cheeks. For more information about these conditions, contact Dr. Dernick at Smiles of Memorial in Memorial, Texas.
Although it may seem troublesome and inconvenient, saliva can help us in many ways. From fighting off bacteria to digesting food, saliva is a necessary part of good oral health. If you feel like you have a problem with your saliva production or if you want to plan your next visit with Dr. Dernick, call Smiles of Memorial in Memorial, Texas, today!