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Why Do We Need Saliva?

To some, it may be kind of gross. To others, maybe just a little weird. But we all produce saliva, whether we like it or not. As strange as it may seem, saliva production is a vitally important function of our exocrine gland system.

Saliva is a fluid produced in the salivary glands of the mouth, cheeks, gums, tongue and lips. It is made of water, mucous, minerals, proteins and the enzyme amylase. 


What Is the Purpose of Saliva?

Saliva may not seem like it has much of a purpose, but it actually has multiple purposes. The first is to keep your mouth moisturized. This helps keep your breath fresh and to stave off harmful, cavity-causing bacteria. When the mouth is too dry, these bacteria thrive in the mouth, increasing your risk for cavities.

Saliva also aids in chewing, swallowing and even tasting food. That’s because it moistens food as you chew, making it easier to swallow. Saliva helps you taste food, too, because in order for your taste buds to detect the flavor in your food, the food must first be dissolved by the saliva.

What Can Happen If I Don’t Produce Enough Saliva?

People who don’t produce enough saliva are said to have a condition called "dry mouth." Dry mouth doesn’t sound all that serious, but it can be. As you may have already read, saliva helps keep harmful bacteria off your teeth. When you experience conditions like dry mouth, you are leaving your teeth vulnerable to those bacteria. Additionally, mouths that do not produce enough saliva have a higher risk of gum disease, which can harm teeth and gums and even cause bone loss.

Having low saliva output can also increase your risk for developing oral conditions like oral fungus, oral yeast and other types of oral bacterium.

What Should I Do If I Have Dry Mouth?

Now that you know how serious a condition dry mouth can be, you’ll probably want to correct it as soon as possible. There are many things you can do if you aren’t producing enough saliva. First, drink plenty of water. Water helps keep your mouth hydrated and helps keep teeth clear of bacteria and debris. While it doesn’t moisturize quite the same way as saliva, it is still an important part of your diet – dry mouth or not.

If you are experiencing temporary dry mouth, you can purchase over-the-counter mouth rinses that help moisturize the mouth while freshening the breath and encouraging the production of saliva. If you experience chronic or frequent dry mouth, speak to Dr. Lederman about a prescription-strength "artificial saliva" rinse or spray.

It is also recommended that you avoid foods that are highly acidic, salty or spicy. You can also chew sugarless gum, as this will increase your saliva production and help fight harmful oral bacteria while you chew.

Still have questions? Give Dr. Simpson a call at 910-550-3959.

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Michele Simpson DDS

Wilmington Dental Office

3317 Masonboro Loop Rd • Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28409

(910) 550-3959