Saliva, or spit, is more important than most people think. It is made up of 98 percent water, but also contains important proteins, minerals, electrolytes, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. Saliva comes from the salivary glands, which are located inside your cheeks, under your tongue, and near your jawbone. On average, people produce 2-4 pints of saliva every day!
Saliva is important for your oral health because it kills germs, prevents bad breath, defends against tooth decay and gum disease, protects enamel, and speeds up wound healing. It washes away food and debris from teeth and gums and provides disease-fighting substances, calcium, fluoride, and phosphate ions inside your mouth to help prevent cavities from forming. Acids can break down tooth enamel, so the saliva works to neutralize any acidic residue from eating. Saliva can repair the tooth’s protective surface in a process called remineralization.
Another reason saliva is important is because it allows you to swallow food after chewing, by making it wet and soft, so it can slide down your throat easily. It moistens and breaks down food to enhance your ability to taste. This is why your mouth can water when you think about or smell food, and then the salivary glands kick into action once you start eating.
Some people don’t make enough saliva, which is a condition called xerostomia, or dry mouth. This causes gum disease and tooth decay to occur easier, since there is no saliva to protect against bacteria. However, there are several treatments available for dealing with this condition that include good oral health habits.
- Drink water frequently
- Chew sugar free gum if allowed to
- Use mouthrinses like biotene
- Schedule regular check ups with the dentist to check for signs of dry mouth
If you or someone you know needs to see a dentist, schedule a visit with us at Museum Smiles. We are conveniently within walking distance of the Modern Art Museum, right off West 7th Street. And proudly serve patients from Arlington and Fort Worth Areas.