Why is saliva so important?
Saliva is so important and necessary for oral health. Healthy functioning saliva helps to prevent decay, gum diseases and overall maintain good oral health.
Functions of saliva
- Acts as a lubricant (protects against irritation, air flow, speech, chewing and swallowing)
- Remineralisation (as it has calcium and phosphate, essential minerals for remineralising teeth)
- Neutralise plaque pH after eating
- Cleansing (clears food)
- Antimicrobial (helps control the balance of good/bad bacteria in the mouth)
- Helps with digestion (food starts to breakdown from the enzyme amylase)
- Helps us to taste
- Water balance (when we are dehydrated, our saliva flow is reduced and this then sends a message to decrease our urine production and increased need of water)
When we have a reduced production or unhealthy functioning saliva, we can increase our risk of infection, tooth decay, gum diseases and may have difficulty eating or even speaking.
Did you know the normal daily production of saliva is between ½ and 1 litre per day?
Some ways that we can speed up our salivary flow to clear our food and neutralise pH:
- Tough foods
- Salty peanuts
- Chewing gum (ideally, 2 pieces for at least 15 mins)
- Highly flavored foods
- Rinsing with water after meals
Diet also plays a big role in the saliva production and quantity. Nutrient-dense foods, limited consumption of refined carbohydrates, acidic foods and drinks and added or artificial sugars. We also want to keep well hydrated. It’s better to sip on water throughout the day, instead of having a high intake of water all at once.
If you find you experience a dry mouth or you’ve been told by your dental practitioner. You may like to consider a saliva substitute.
There are many saliva substitutes available. These substitutes can come in toothpaste form, mouthwash, mouth gel, chewing gum or lozenges/melts. They can help mimic the natural saliva and help to lubricate the mouth (only replacement therapy, not a cure).
Here are some brands available:
- Oral 7
- Oracoat – Xylimelts