Why is Saliva Important for Dental Health?

June 27, 2017

Most of us don’t give much thought to saliva, and when we do, those thoughts aren’t too pleasant. However, it’s time we give our spit the appreciation it deserves!

In our mouths, our saliva starts breaking down the food we eat, beginning the digestion process. That is just one of the many purposes your spit serves. Keep reading to find out the other things our saliva does for us.

Your Salivary Glands Keep Things Flowing Smoothly

As you chew your food, your salivary glands get to work. The more vigorous your chewing, the more saliva is released.

This is an important process for many reasons, including that saliva:

  • Delivers nutrients to your teeth that protect your enamel, prevent decay, and fight gum disease
  • Helps you chew and taste your food
  • Fights germs and prevents bad breath
  • Helps you swallow

You have hundreds of small saliva glands, but the six main ones are located inside either of your cheeks, between your front teeth and jaw bone, and at the bottom of your mouth.

What if You Don’t Have Enough Saliva?

A lack of saliva is called dry mouth, and this is a common side effect of many medications and a symptom of certain medical conditions.

Dry mouth can result in issues like painful swelling in your mouth and bad breath. Those who suffer from dry mouth sometimes report that they can no longer taste their food the way they used to.

The following factors are common triggers for dry mouth:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Dehydration
  • Blockage or structural issue with your salivary ducts
  • Smoking
  • Stress

If you’re taking any of the following medicines, they could cause you to experience dry mouth:

  • Pain medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Appetite suppressants
  • Allergy drugs like Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Allegra (fexofenadine)
  • Blood pressure pills
  • Anxiety medications
  • Diuretics (water pills)

Before you take a medication, discuss the side effects with your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to help you come up with a way to relieve your dry mouth.

Treating Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can sometimes be treated at home by sucking on sugar free candy, chewing gum, and drinking plenty of water.

If your condition becomes chronic and doesn’t respond to these treatments, contact your dentist. There are additional treatments available that may be a good fit for you.