The Role Saliva Plays in Your Oral Health

July 3, 2017

While it may not be an appropriate topic for the dinner table, saliva is important to your dental health. Not only does saliva kickstart the digestion process, it also has a number of functions that keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Most of us don’t think twice about saliva, even though we’d be in deep trouble without it. We at Lone Tree Modern Dental & Orthodontics are taking a moment to help our patients understand the role saliva plays in their oral health.

Salivary Glands are the Unsung Hero of Dental Health

Every time you chew, your salivary glands produce saliva. The more vigorous your chewing, the more saliva they produce. And that’s a good thing! This fluid plays pivotal roles like:

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

Your six large salivary glands are inside either cheek, at the bottom of your mouth, and between your front teeth and jaw bone. You also have countless salivary glands that are slightly smaller.

What Are the Consequences of Not Having Enough Saliva?

Dry mouth, caused by a lack of saliva, can go together with many diseases and OTC and prescription drugs. The results of dry mouth can be painful swelling in your tongue and gums and bad breath. It can also make it more difficult for you to taste your food.

Some contributing factors that cause dry mouth include:

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Blockage or structural issue with your salivary ducts
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • HIV/AIDS, Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson’s
  • Dehydration

Dry mouth is a common side effect for drugs like:

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

Before taking a medication, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about the possible side effects.

Treating Dry Mouth

The best way to treat dry mouth is to stay hydrated. You can also try sucking on sugar free candies or chewing gum.

If you’ve exhausted all possible causes and still experience dry mouth, see your dentist. You may have a chronic issue that could require a dental professional’s help. If you’re in the Lone Tree area, you can also contact us!