If you’re like most, saliva is probably not something you spend a lot of time thinking about. Some mornings you might find it on your pillow. If you’re feeling congested you may spit it out, and if you’re really hungry you might notice it begin to gather in your mouth. Even though we don’t spend much time thinking about it, saliva plays a really important role in our oral health.
What Is It?
Saliva is formed by several different glands located around our cheeks, lips, and tongue. When these glands activate, tiny ducts carry the solution to our mouth. Saliva is 98 percent water, and two percent electrolytes (like sodium, potassium, and calcium), mucus, white blood cells, epithelial cells, enzymes, and antimicrobial agents.
What Does It Do For Us?
You might think saliva just makes food easier to swallow. But there are also two other key functions of saliva: it contributes to the digestion of food, and maintains the health of our mouths. The enzymes found in saliva help begin the process of digestion, specifically of dietary starches and fats, before the food has even reached our stomach. Interestingly enough, those same enzymes help to break down food particles that have become caught in our teeth.
Accompanying the digestive enzymes are antimicrobial agents that help eliminate harmful bacteria before it rapidly multiplies. Our saliva also contains microbes that help to repair tooth enamel.
What If You Don’t Have Enough?
The importance of saliva becomes obvious as soon as we don’t have enough. Patients suffering dry mouth (xerostomia), are susceptible to a whole number of issues, including periodontal disease, cavities, and infection. They may also have trouble swallowing or digesting food. If you have dry mouth, it’s important to drink plenty of water every day. However, dry mouth only in the mornings is a common symptom of sleep apnea, and you should consider getting tested.
If you’re experiencing dry mouth, it becomes more important for you to practice good oral hygiene to avoid gum disease or tooth decay. The American Dental Association recommends brushing and flossing twice daily. When flossing, take extra care to go behind or between each tooth, taking care to dip below the gum line periodically. It is also important to get a cleaning and checkup every six months to stop oral complications from progressing.
If you are looking for general dentistry in Anchorage, Excellence in Dentistry can help. Please call (907) 349-0022 or contact us today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist.