Monday, June 17, 2013

What is saliva and what role does it play in oral health?

Saliva is produced in the salivary glands, 98% water, but contains many important substances, including Antibacterial Compounds, Mucus, Electrolytes and various enzymes.

Saliva plays an important role in oral health, without enough saliva, our teeth suffer tremendously. Not only does saliva make it easy to swallow and begin digesting food right in our mouths, but it has special neutralising, remineralising and antibacterial qualities. For instance, when plaque or acid attacks a tooth surface, calcium and phosphate in saliva can actually repair early damage. This can mean the difference between having normal healthy teeth or teeth that are decayed or eroded.
Saliva is created when you chew, the harder you chew, the more saliva is produced. Sucking on a hard candy or cough drop helps produce saliva, too.

The glands that make saliva are called salivary glands. Salivary glands sit inside each cheek at the bottom of the mouth near the front teeth by the jaw bone.  

There are six major salivary glands and hundreds of minor ones. Saliva moves through tubes called salivary ducts.
Normally, the body is always making saliva, up to 2 to 4 pints a day. Usually, the body makes the most saliva in the late afternoon. It makes the least amount at night.
But everyone is different. What doctors consider to be a normal amount of saliva varies quite a bit. That makes diagnosing saliva problems a bit of a challenge.

What causes too little saliva?

Medications and diseases affect how much saliva is produced. If not enough saliva is produced, the mouth can become dry, this condition is called dry mouth (xerostomia).

Dry mouth causes the gums, tongue, and other tissues in the mouth to become swollen. Germs thrive in this type of setting which leads to bad breath. Dry mouth also makes the mouth acceptable to developing rapid tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease. That's because saliva helps clear food particles from the teeth, this also helps reduce the risk of cavities. Dry mouth also changes the taste buds. Dry mouth is common in older adults, although the reasons are unclear. Diseases that affect the whole body (systemic disorders), poor nutrition, and the use of certain drugs are thought to play a key role.

Too little saliva and dry mouth can be caused by:
  • Certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Sjogren's syndrome, Diabetes and Parkinson's
  • Blockage in one or more tubes that drain saliva (salivary duct obstruction)
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Dehydrarion
  • "Fight or flight" stress response
  • Structural problem with a salivary duct
  • Smoking cigarettes
Hundreds of commonly used medicines are known to affect saliva flow and cause dry mouth, such as:
  • Antihistamines
  • Anxiety medicines
  • Appetite suppressants
  • Certain types of blood pressure drugs
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Most antidepressants
  • Certain pain medicines (analgesics)
Always ask your health-care provider about side effects you might have when taking a medication.


  1. Ever experienced a dry mouth? We all need saliva to moisten and cleanse our mouths,
    keep bacteria under control, and to help us digest our food properly. If we don’t produce
    enough saliva, we experience a dry mouth, which can be uncomfortable.
    how to get rid of dry mouth

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