Why is Saliva Important for Dental Health?

June 23, 2017

salivaPardon us–we know it’s not a polite topic, but your spit is important. The digestive juices in your saliva facilitate the first step in the process of breaking down your food. Plus, saliva has a number of functions that keep your gums, tongue, and pearly whites functioning at their healthiest.

Most of us don’t give much thought to this fluid, but at All Smiles Dental Group, we think it’s time to give our saliva some appreciation.

Salivary Glands Keep Things Flowing

Your salivary glands produce saliva when you chew. The more vigorously you chew, the more saliva your body produces. And you should be thankful for that since saliva provides the following oral health functions:

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

You have six main salivary glands and countless smaller ones. The larger glands are located inside either cheek, at the bottom of your mouth, and between your front teeth and jaw bone.

What Happens if You Don’t Have Enough Saliva?

Lack of saliva, commonly known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of certain drugs and symptom of some diseases.

This condition can make your tongue and gums painfully swollen and result in bad breath. You may not be able to taste your food the same way you used to.

Some contributing factors that cause dry mouth include:

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

Dry mouth is a common side effect for drugs like:

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

Before taking a medication, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects.

Treating Dry Mouth

If you experience dry mouth, there are some ways to treat it on your own. Making sure you stay hydrated throughout the day, chewing gum, and sucking on sugar-free candy can all help to alleviate dry mouth.

If the problem persists, call your dentist. There are different treatments we can administer in our office that can further aid with dry mouth.