Getting Savvy About Saliva Production!
Saliva is something of an unsung hero. It helps you chew, taste, swallow and digest your food. It’s also vital to your overall oral health. Keep reading to learn more about saliva and for some tips on treating dry mouth.
What is saliva?Saliva is a clear liquid produced by the salivary glands found in your cheeks, jaw and the bottom of your mouth. It’s 99% water. The remaining one per cent contains substances such as proteins, enzymes, mucin and electrolytes, each of which serves an important function.
The proteins interact with the taste receptors in your mouth, allowing you to better taste your food. The enzymes begin the digestive process by breaking down starches and fats in your mouth and the mucin helps you chew and swallow safely by lubricating the mouth.
Why is saliva so important?
Saliva is needed for chewing, tasting, swallowing and digesting. It also has the following oral health benefits:
- It washes food and debris away from the teeth and gums, helping keep your mouth clean
- It contains ions that strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities and tooth decay
- It eliminates germs in your mouth, which helps prevent infections and bad breath
What problems can dry mouth cause?
When you’re not producing enough saliva, the tissues in your mouth become dry and swollen, causing discomfort. In addition, germs thrive in these conditions and plaque and bacteria tend to build up along the gumline. This can lead to oral health problems like cavities and gum disease. Dry mouth can also cause bad breath.
What causes dry mouth?Dry mouth can be a side effect of common medications. It can also be a symptom of some illnesses, especially ones that cause dehydration. Other potential causes include mouth breathing, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption and genetic factors.
How is dry mouth treated?
Here are some ways you can improve saliva production:
- Drink plenty of water
- Breathe, rather than your mouth, through your nose as often as possible
- Brush and floss regularly
- Use sugar-free candy or gum, especially after each meal, to stimulate saliva production
If the problem persists, you could ask a health professional about over-the-counter or prescription medication that stimulate saliva production, or a medicated mouth wash. And if your dry mouth is related to a medication you’re taking, you may want to discuss with the prescriber, the possibility of switching to a different one.
For more strategies for treating dry mouth, speak with your dentist.