Why is Saliva Important for Dental Health?

June 27, 2017

It may gross us out, but spit is an underrated substance. Saliva serves many purposes for keeping your teeth and gums healthy, and it’s also the first step in the process of digesting your food.

When many of us think about saliva, our thoughts are mostly limited to “eww.” Here at Castle Pines Dental Group, we don’t think spit gets nearly the amount of appreciation it deserves.

Salivary Glands Keep Things Running Smoothly

When you chew, your salivary glands zoom into action. As you chew more strenuously, your glands produce more saliva to keep up. Your body does this as a way of:

  • Helping you swallow
  • Delivering nutrients to your teeth that protect your enamel, prevent decay, and fight gum disease
  • Fighting germs and preventing bad breath
  • Helping you chew and taste your food

Your six main salivary glands are housed at the bottom of your mouth, between your front teeth and jaw bone, and on either side of your cheek. In addition to these, you have hundreds of more minor salivary glands.

What Would Happen if You Didn’t Have Saliva?

glass of waterDry mouth, caused by a lack of saliva, can lead to a number of complications. It can cause an uncomfortable feeling in your mouth due to swelling of your tongue and gums, and cause halitosis, or bad breath. It can also make it more difficult to taste your food.

The following are some factors that can lead to dry mouth:

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

Another major contributing factor to dry mouth is taking medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can contribute to dry mouth, including:

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

Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you believe your medication is causing dry mouth. They may be able to offer an alternative medication or help you find another way to prevent it.

Treating Dry Mouth

The best way to treat dry mouth at home is to drink plenty of water. Sucking on sugar-free candies or chewing gum may also help.

If you’ve exhausted all possibilities and your dry mouth persists, contact your dentist. There are treatments we can administer in our Castle Rock office that be appropriate for your case.