Saliva and Your Mouth

Oral_HealthWhile it has a somewhat unsavory association with making us drool, saliva actually plays a crucial role in our oral health, as well as our overall health.

Saliva is a fluid that is manufactured in our mouth by six major saliva glands, as well as hundreds of smaller saliva glands. The average adult produces two to four pints of saliva per day. Saliva production typically peaks in the late afternoon and tapers off at night.

How Saliva Boosts Our Oral Health

  • Saliva helps make the food we eat much easier to chew, which ensures it is digested properly and not left sticking to surfaces in our mouth.
  • It also helps us taste our food, because it contains digestive enzymes that accelerate a specific chemical reaction to help us detect if a food is sweet, salty, sour, or bitter.
  • It aids the re-mineralization of our teeth and prevents the erosion of tooth enamel.
  • Our saliva keeps the pH of our mouth close to neutral, i.e. around 7. This avoids damage to our teeth from acidic foods, which can accelerate the production of destructive plaque-causing bacteria.
  • Lastly, saliva is the substance responsible for washing most of the bacteria (in the form of plaque or tartar) off of our teeth. It is able to do this, and to help keep our teeth healthier, even if our oral health habits aren’t perfect!

Beyond these many oral health benefits, saliva also has a role to play in our body’s more general defense against disease. Saliva, especially in adults, contains significant amounts of the antibody Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which helps us resist infections and other illnesses.

“Saliva isn’t just glorified tap water floating around in our mouths,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist based in central Phoenix. “It is a bodily fluid that is constantly being replenished to ensure we experience optimal oral health!”

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