Saliva is so ordinary thing that you probably do not given it much thought, but it is as important to our oral health as oil is to a working car engine. Saliva is an essential component of our ability to eat, taste our favorite foods, and speak. It is crucial to a healthy immune system and our first line of defense against many oral health problems.
Stages of Saliva Production
In a healthy mouth, saliva is produced continuously by the salivary glands, which are located under our tongues and in our cheeks. These glands produce between two and six cups of saliva every day! Saliva is 98-99 percent water, and the rest consists of proteins, digestive enzymes, antimicrobial factors, and electrolytes.
Depending on where food is in the digestive process, saliva goes through a few different stages: cephalic, buccal, oesophageal, gastric, and intestinal. When you smell something delicious and your mouth waters, saliva is in the cephalic stage. Eating moves it to the buccal stage, which helps us swallow food. The oesophageal stage helps move swallowed food down the esophagus.
The last two stages are less pleasant, but still important. If you are about to throw up, your salivary glands work overtime in the gastric stage so that the stomach acid cannot do as much damage when it comes up and out with the partially digested food. The intestinal stage is similar, activating when the body does not agree with food that reaches the upper intestine.
Saliva And Oral Health
There are many reasons we have saliva, but the most important role it plays in your oral health is keeping your mouth’s pH balanced and flushing away remnants of food to keep everything clean. Eating food tends to make our mouths more acidic, and even though the enamel on our teeth is the hardest substance in our bodies, it only takes a pH of 5.5 to start dissolving it. Many of the foods we eat are far more acidic than that, which makes saliva critical in protecting our teeth. The antimicrobial factors in saliva also fight bacteria, protecting us against gum disease and bad breath. Growth factors in saliva are why injuries in your mouth (like a burned tongue or a bitten cheek) heal faster than injuries elsewhere on the body. These are the benefits to our oral health, but saliva does much more.
When The Spit Runs Dry…
All of these benefits are why dry mouth is such a serious problem, and it can happen for a number of reasons. Our mouths tend to go dry in stressful situations. We also tend to produce less saliva in old age. Drug use, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all cause dry mouth as well. Unfortunately, many prescription medications have a side effect of dry mouth.
Let’s Get That Mouth Watering!
If you have been experiencing dry mouth for any reason, schedule an appointment with us! We can discover the cause and get that saliva flowing again so that you will not miss out on any of its great health benefits!
Thank you for trusting in our practice!
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original. The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.