The Importance of Saliva

Hello, Dr. Jeff Johnston here!

I would like to talk to you about saliva, commonly known as spit. This is a very important part of the oral cavity. Your spit or saliva is composed of buffering systems, enzymes, and many good things to help you start digesting and to help you clean your teeth. It’s a very important fluid in our bodies. Our body is made up of incredible chemistry and the saliva in our mouth is the most important part of our mouth sometimes. The enzyme in Saliva, called cell amylase, helps us start breaking down our foods, and right as we’re eating, it helps dissolve foods by making it soft so that the digestion actually occurs in the mouth. 

Saliva also buffers our mouth. Our mouth has to stay at a constant pH and a pH is acidic and basic. A lot of times we eat sour candy, foods that are acidic such as cokes, and saliva can help us buffer our mouth back to a normal pH level. In the dental industry, it is called “critical pH” because once we drop below that pH in our mouth, teeth start to break down. Our saliva is there to help our mouth stay in a neutral pH. Other things, like sodium bicarbonate, is found in our saliva.  It is a buffering that helps with pH. Also, our saliva can be more liquidy or it can be thicker. Liquidy is better. The thicker it is, the less it cleans your teeth. Back in the caveman days, saliva is all we needed. Now we’re eating carbohydrates, chips, and candy which becomes real sticky on our teeth. The saliva is having a hard time washing that sticky stuff off of our teeth so that’s why we need to incorporate toothbrushes and floss and things of that sort. As a reiteration, saliva is really important. What seems to be happening is, a lot of people are taking medications and most medications have a side effect of dry mouth. It’s turning off the saliva glands, and it’s not a good thing for our dental health. Pay close attention to the effects of medications on your teeth. A dry mouth is not a good mouth. We need nice, moist, liquid, saliva covering our teeth at all times. We produce up to a liter of saliva a day. These saliva glands in our mouth are extremely important to our oral health. There are also medications that help you with increasing saliva flow and rate and production. A lot of things are going on with these tiny glands that are just so important to the overall health of our mouths. If you feel like your mouth is too dry, drink a lot of water, choose sugar-free, citric free candies and always make sure your mouth is moist and wet so the teeth are bathing in good solutions and not staying dry. This is very common with elderly patients. Their taking meds for so long, it just wipes out their salivary glands. If you have any kind of radiation in the head and neck, it can kill the salivary gland. These glands are extremely important for the health of our teeth. Give our dental office in Cherry Creek, Denver a call or come by if you have any questions about Saliva.

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