What is the Purpose of Saliva?
If you’ve ever experienced “dry-mouth” or have ever been so thirsty that your tongue feels like sandpaper, then you know the importance of saliva. It is that watery substance that keeps our mouths moist and our throats lubricated.
Saliva is comprised mostly of water, though also contains trace amount of other compounds like electrolytes, mucus, and other enzymes. It is the non-water portions of saliva that make it so important to oral health. As saliva washes over our teeth, these enzymes break down any remaining food particles, and further strengthen enamel with its fluoride content.
Certain medications will induce “dry mouth” or “cotton mouth” creating a higher likelihood for weakened enamel. For this reason it is important to maintain adequate water consumption when taking this medication and to brush often.
In addition to aiding in oral health, saliva also plays a major role in digestion. As food particles are chewed, they are also broken down further by saliva. Once food is small enough to safely swallow, saliva helps push it down into the stomach to then be digested. Without saliva, the process of swallowing might be extremely painful and dangerous.
So, the next time you’re about to eat, be aware of the amount of saliva present in your mouth. In addition, be sure to brush and floss twice a day, but feel confident that saliva is also protecting your teeth from the sugars and bacteria in the foods you eat.