Written by Lauren Turville
Many of us may not think about what saliva actually does for our bodies, but the health benefits are numerous. In fact, it plays a very significant role in our oral health and is a powerful natural defense. Saliva generally does for our mouths what blood does for our bodies; it helps build and maintain our tissue. Our body produces saliva on its own in the salivary glands, something increased by chewing. If there is a lack of saliva, oral health problems increase. According to the American Dental Association, saliva helps with the following:
- Washes away food and debris from the gums, preventing tooth decay
- Moistens and breaks down food to make it easier to chew and swallow
- Contains disease-fighting components to help prevent cavities and infections
- Keeps teeth strong by providing fluoride, calcium, and phosphate ions
Research shows that saliva can also be used to detect health issues in other parts of the body as well as diseases in the mouth. It appears that it can even aid in the diagnosis of breast cancer and viral hepatitis. It is so important to produce enough saliva that the American Dental Hygienists Association suggests chewing sugar free gum within 20 minutes of eating or drinking, resulting in the increase of saliva by 10 times the normal rate. This practice is shown to decrease tooth decay by up to 40 percent. Although gum should not replace brushing your teeth regularly, when out and about and brushing is not an option, increase your saliva and give your oral health a jump-start by grabbing a piece of sugar free gum!
“Making a conscious effort now to preserve your oral health can make a huge difference down the road,” says Dr. Rod Gleave, a Utah dentist serving Millcreek, South Salt Lake and Murray.