There are many things that we don’t appreciate enough in life, and one of those things is saliva. We don’t give saliva much thought in our day-to-day lives, and we don’t think about all that it does for us. But there are many benefits to saliva, and we couldn’t live without it.
Let’s find out why…
Benefit #1 – Lubrication
The most obvious benefit of saliva is its role in lubricating your mouth. We all notice that dry feeling when we get dehydrated. But do you stop to think about lubrication when you’re not thirsty?
Saliva has such a powerful lubricating effect on our mouths that without it we wouldn’t be able to talk or eat or even smile. It keeps our tongues, lips, and cheeks from sticking together.
Our mouth tissue is soft and easily damaged if dried out. Without saliva, there would be a constant risk of injury just from the movement of our teeth. Prolonged scraping of teeth against a dry cheek or tongue could cause ulcers and mouth sores to form.
That’s why one of the first signs of dehydration is dry, cracked lips. Your body is protecting itself by relaying the message through your mouth.
Benefit #2 – Digestion
And what is a more fundamental task than digestion? It’s another thing that we need our bodies to do, and something that would be impossible without saliva.
Digestion starts the moment you put food into your mouth. When you’re chewing your food, you are in the first step of the process.
Without saliva, you wouldn’t even be able to chew food. Breaking down large bites would take a very long time and your risk of choking would increase.
But chewing is important for more than choking hazards. The chewing process causes food to mix with your saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that help your stomach and intestines break down the molecules. This process allows your body to absorb nutrients.
Benefit #3 – Taste
Also related to eating is our third benefit of saliva, the ability to taste. We wouldn’t enjoy our food as much without saliva because it is what carries the food molecules to our taste buds.
When you’re dehydrated, you don’t taste as much of your food. Because of this, many people will add more salt or sugar to make the taste stronger. This method doesn’t work though as it will dehydrate you more.
So instead of adding more salt and sugar to your diet, you should focus on stimulating your saliva. The most reliable way to produce more saliva is to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. You can also chew on xylitol gum or snack on things like vegetables, cheese, and nuts.
Benefit #4 – Healthy Teeth
Another overlooked benefit of saliva is its role in preventing tooth decay. It may seem shocking that teeth can decay since enamel is the hardest substance in the entire human body.
The key to fighting tooth decay is minimizing acid and regular dental visits. The food we eat provides fuel for the bacteria in our mouths to create powerful acids. Acid weakens our enamel which allows bacteria to get inside teeth.
Saliva is the superhero in this situation because it has the power to neutralize the acid by correcting pH levels in our mouths.
This is the reason that our mouths produce more saliva when we eat. It’s to counteract the acid being made by the bacteria.
And if your enamel is already damaged, your saliva can help in the remineralization process. Our enamel needs fluoride, calcium, and phosphate minerals to strengthen teeth. Saliva carries those necessary materials to their surface.
Benefit #5 – Prevent Dental Disease
Like our last benefit, this one has to do with saliva and its battle against bacteria. Most of us know that dental disease is no fun, but it’s what all of us would get without saliva and the enzymes it contains.
People who suffer from a dry mouth have more significant amounts of dental plaque. They are also more likely to get gum disease and cavities because of the lack of saliva and enzymes.
One such enzyme is lysozyme which breaks down bacterial cell walls. Another important enzyme lactoferrin. It is a protein that prevents bacteria from stealing iron away from us. This is helpful because bacteria need iron to grow and to cause disease.
And finally, saliva contains antimicrobial peptides. These peptides kill bacteria by attaching to cell walls. They open large pores, causing cellular fluid to drain and bacteria to die.
Benefit #6 – Protects Immune System
The final benefit we’ll be discussing is the most surprising one. Saliva is an essential part of our immune system. It provides to our immunity health in two different ways.
The first way is by binding the mucus layer in our mouths. This protective layer keeps dangerous microorganisms from penetrating our bodies. Saliva is full of plasma B cells that make IgA antibodies. These are the antibodies that strengthen the mucus layer and keep us healthy.
The second way saliva protects our immune system is through suppression. Sometimes harmless proteins in our food are seen as dangerous by our body.
This reaction could cause inflammatory issues in the mouth and throat like an allergic reaction. But it is our superhero salivary glands producing cells to suppress the immune system that protects from this overreaction.
Saliva is necessary for good overall health. It aids in the way we communicate, digest food, react to allergens, and that’s just to name a few. Regular dental care keeps your mouth at its best and your salivary glands flowing.
Don’t forget, take time to appreciate the small things – like saliva.
Have you been experiencing dry mouth? Or wondering about the health of your teeth? Contact Hamburg Dental Care for more information.