There are certain biological processes that you probably don’t think very much about, and saliva is almost certainly one of them. You already know that it keeps your mouth from becoming uncomfortably dry, but you may not think very much beyond that. But believe it or not, there’s a lot more to your spit than meets the eye. Here are a few facts that will likely have you looking at saliva with a whole new respect.
1. Saliva Protects You
Your saliva may seem relatively gross, but it’s actually mostly water. The other 1% is made up of vitamins, minerals, and even things like food or toothpaste. This seemingly unremarkable mixture dilutes the sugars in your mouth and can even get rid of them entirely. Your dentist can certainly tell you exactly how sugar harms your teeth but suffice to say, you want as much mitigation between you and sugar as possible.
2. You Produce a Lot of It
There are hundreds of glands in your mouth, and they’re all working hard to provide enough saliva for you. If you’re anything like the average person, you’re producing about a quart of saliva a day. That’s about two bathtubs when you add it all up at the end of the year. How much you produce depends on everything from your body chemistry to your age. It’s just another reason why it’s important for you to keep drinking water as you get older. Dehydration will give your body less H2O to work with when producing saliva.
3. Mucins Are the Answer
Mucins are a specific type of protein found in your saliva. They’re sticky enough to adhere to your teeth, giving your mouth enough lubrication to speak and swallow. If you put a tough piece of potato skin in the back of your mouth, mucins give you the ability to chew the food and break it down properly. And while saliva isn’t entirely magic, it’s the thing that stands in the way of acids and bacteria that cause cavities.
4. It Builds Up Your Teeth
Saliva adds a buffer between you and all the other foods you eat, while balancing the natural repair process of teeth. Plus, it fights off dangerous microbes. Essentially, you’d have a much harder time digesting foods, preventing infection, and maintaining the current structure of your teeth. People with dry mouth disease aren’t just uncomfortable, they’re also prone to gum disease and excess cavities. Spit was really the original toothpaste.
5. It’s the Key to Tasting
Do you know why you love your favorite foods so much? It’s all comes down to saliva. Without it, the food molecules can’t dissolve to be reached by your taste buds. All those complex starches and fats are no match for the power of saliva. As you chew, it’s keeping both your gums and teeth from unnecessary acid exposure. To do this, it makes use of the enzyme amylase. The catalyst is what kicks out the sugars and allows your mouth to continue producing saliva freely.
6. Your Saliva Stops When You’re Scared
Whether a bear is chasing you or you’re nervous about a big presentation, the nervous system of your body goes into fight or flight mode. Once you hit this state of arousal, the rest of your body’s responses sort of fall by the wayside. So it’s not unusual to find that you’re having trouble swallowing when you’re feeling overwhelmed. (In fact, you’ll see this little phenomenon again and again on movies and TV.) Your saliva has the ability to crystallize into stones, the most severe of which need to be removed surgically.
7. You Can Increase Your Saliva Production
There are certain types of products, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, that are specifically designed for dry mouth. Sucking on ice chips, candies, and popsicles may also help combat dry mouth. (Just make sure that everything is sugar-free.) Along with drinking plenty of water, these tips can help you loosen the mucus in your mouth and help keep it moist. Even wetting your food down with things like butter, cream, and broth can make a difference to your saliva production. Finally, adding in sugar-free gum during the day can be a great way to unconsciously up your production.
8. You Can Decrease Your Saliva Production
Habits like smoking and mouth breathing can quickly deplete your available saliva supply. Avoid alcohol, salty foods, and caffeine, as these are known to promote dry mouth. Mouthwashes that contain peroxide, dry foods (e.g., crackers, etc.), and high-sugar or high-acid anything will also work against you. If you’re prone to dry mouth, limit the amount of orange juice, soda, and coffee so you can actually swallow on a regular basis.
9. Saliva Speeds Up Your Ability to Heal
Your body has its own treatment methods when it comes to the wounds. Because of the wonders of saliva, wounds in the mouth tend to heal at a higher rate than anywhere else on your body. If you’ve ever seen an animal licking its wounds, now you know that it’s more than a compulsive habit.
10. Saliva Is Great for Analyzing
Saliva may be mainly made of water, but it can still be used to test for alcohol or drugs. This kind of accuracy is leading more researchers to wonder how it can be used for diagnosing certain diseases. After all, it’s much easier to take a swap of saliva than it is to take a vial of blood or chunk of skin for a biopsy.
Supplement Your Saliva with Dental Care
If you’re not content to let your saliva do all the work, you can find a quality dental office in Florham Park. We’re here to help you get the relief you need, so give us a call to schedule your consultation. Our dentistry practice can give you the information and tips to give yourself the edge when it comes to keeping your pearly whites protected from the elements.