The Foundation for Oral Health Is Good Spit

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Saliva Is Your Body’s Built in Mouth Wash That is Essential for Strong Teeth and Gums

 When most people think of good oral health they probably think of brushing, flossing, regular cleanings and dental care.  These are all necessary for the wellbeing of your mouth, but the very foundation for healthy teeth and gums is already built in your body. It’s your spit. The saliva produced in your mouth every minute of the day serves a myriad of purposes to prevent cavities, infection and disease.

Functions of Saliva

Saliva has all the necessary components that make it active in the protection and repair of oral structures.  It’s made up of 99.5% water. The other .5%? Believe it or not, is comprised of several components, including electrolytes, mucus, proteins, enzymes, and antibacterial compounds. Now, you know why saliva is the first step in the digestion process! It helps lubricate your food, making it easier to chew and swallow. Saliva also enhances your taste, not to mention your motor functions, which helps you to talk.

To understand optimum oral health, it is important to know the protective and repair functions of saliva.

To Wash & Clean the Mouth

After eating, saliva flows in sufficient quantities to wash the mouth clean of food residues, bacteria, acids, sugars, viruses, fungi, parasites, stains, pollutants and other substances.  As it flows, saliva dilutes and eventually eliminates substances that may cause harm to oral structures.

Digestive enzymes in saliva serve a cleaning function by breaking down solid food particles, trapped between teeth and on the upper surface of the tongue, into liquid solution.  This makes it easier to use saliva to wash the mouth clean of all solid food residues before the formation of plaque.

The tongue has strong skeletal muscles arranged in three different planes, which allows it to perform the complex movements of cleaning all areas of the mouth. In addition, the outer edge of the upper surface of the tongue has taste buds that are used to detect food residues left in the mouth after eating.

To Make Teeth Stronger

Fluoride is present in saliva in sufficient quantities to enhance the repair of teeth damaged by acid erosion.  Fluoride will absorb into the surface of a tooth where demineralization has occurred.

Fluoride attracts:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphate
  • Minerals

The new tooth material that is created by the re-mineralization process in the presence of fluoride is actually a harder compound than the one that existed when the tooth originally formed.  It functions to make teeth stronger and at the same time heals sensitive teeth.

Fluoride also decreases the rate at which bacteria that live in plaque can produce acid.  It does this by disrupting the ability of bacteria to metabolize sugars. The less sugar the bacteria can consume, the less acidic waste will be produced.

Proteins in saliva target the surfaces of bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents leading to their destruction. This offers protection to oral structures and the gastrointestinal tract.

 To Repair Damaged Teeth

Calcium and phosphate are vital components of saliva that repair damaged teeth.

The high concentrations of calcium, phosphate and proteins in saliva facilitates the repair (or re-mineralization) of teeth.  These components of saliva can reverse the early stages of tooth decay, where bacterial acids have caused slight demineralization of the tooth surface, but before actual cavity formation occurs.

Repair to damaged teeth is carried out via acquired pellicle, a micro-thin membrane that is acquired from saliva. Like saliva, it is also active in performing healthy functions.  It covers the outer surface of all teeth and consists of the necessary ingredients to protect and repair.  The acquired pellicle is literally “the skin of your teeth”.  

Active substances in the acquired pellicle:

  • Proteins
  • Glycoproteins (consists of a carbohydrate plus protein)
  • Enzymes
  • Minerals

To Make Teeth Whiter

Tooth discoloration is due mainly to food and drink stains that contaminate saliva over a period of time.  The repair or re-mineralization process of teeth (see above) is continuous (or dynamic) and teeth will become stained if saliva is contaminated with food during this process. 

On the other hand, if all food residues are completely and regularly removed from the mouth immediately after eating, then over a period of time pure saliva, free of food stains, will contribute to the dynamic repair process to make teeth whiter.

To Repair Damaged Gums

Scientists have identified the protein Histatin in saliva.  This substance is known to stimulate the repair of damaged tissue, including gum tissue.

If plaque is not removed from areas at the base of exposed teeth (or crown) bacteria will infect and damage the adjacent gum. This will eventually lead to bleeding gums and chronic gum disease. 

  • Cleaning up to 3 times daily will allow saliva time to stimulate the repair of damaged gum tissue. Newly infected areas should heal quite easily if they are kept plaque free.

The function of saliva to repair tissue may be the biological explanation for animals licking their wounds.

To Protect Gums

Saliva contains Mucins which are a family of large proteins.  A dense carbohydrate coating gives them considerable water holding capacity.  

Mucins protect gums and other gastrointestinal tissue by making them resistant to bacteria and digestive enzymes.

The lubricated inner lining of the mouth constitutes the mucous membranes.  These membranes are lubricated by saliva, which protect underlying tissues.

Too little saliva can be very harmful to your mouth (see our blog on Dry Mouth from March 25, 2015). The next time you swallow remember that you’re doing your mouth a favor.





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