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Casey Dentists

The superpower of saliva

Article written by: Michelle Hankinson – Hygenist

With life being so busy there are many things we don’t give a second thought to. The saliva in our mouths, for example. However it is very important to some of our daily rituals… Saliva affects the taste of our food and moistens it to permit easy swallowing. Saliva starts the digestive process by using an enzyme called amylase to break down starch, found
in things like bread, into sugar. It also makes speech comfortable.

On the defence front, saliva contains antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral microorganisms to help protect our body
from invaders. Saliva neutralises acids in the mouth. It flushes out food and bacteria from the oral cavity and delivers calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions to the tooth surface to aid in re-mineralising the tooth structure. Impaired salivary function significantly increases a person’s risk of developing oral and dental

“Impaired salivary function significantly increases a person’s risk of developing oral and dental diseases.”

When salivary function is compromised your mouth’s equilibrium is disrupted. Your mouth becomes more acidic and this may lead to softening of the enamel (external tooth surface). This can increase the risk of wearing the teeth down, and make it easier for vigorous brushing and a hard toothbrush to cause damage. This creates the ultimate environment for erosion of the teeth.

Alterations in diet, the habits we develop, our lifestyle choices and medical conditions all affect our saliva. These risk factors should be identified before irreversible damage is done and tooth structure is lost permanently.

Dehydration is a common cause of dry mouth however there are other conditions such as salivary gland cancer, head and neck radiation, HIV infection, Sjogren’s Syndrome and diabetes mellitus that affect salivary function too. Drinking plenty of water may not be enough to keep acid levels low and teeth strong. There are some products available, such as
gels and creams, that make the mouth more comfortable and help the teeth receive the minerals they need to strengthen and turn the oral balance in a favourable direction.

During the course of our lives we experience many changes that may affect our saliva. Changes we may not be aware are impacting the balance of health in our mouths. To find out if you’re at risk of impaired salivary function, make an appointment at Casey Dentists today.