Saliva. Just the word can conjure an array of images in your imagination. From salivating at a delicious meal to studying Pavlov’s dogs to watching a baseball player spit, life is full of saliva! And that’s a good thing because saliva is very important for oral and overall health. Problems with saliva can lead to dry mouth, cavities, and bad breath. Read more below from Seattle dentist, Dr. Daniel McKay to learn more about your saliva.
Composition of Saliva
Saliva is 98% water. It also contains electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Saliva travels to all parts of your mouth via “saliva ducts.” Saliva is made in your salivary glands and the contents come from your blood. Ancient doctors believed saliva and blood were “brothers” when it comes to a person’s wellness.
Because saliva is so similar to blood, research is growing on how to use saliva samples to test for diseases. Saliva samples are already used to test for HIV, but studies are finding you can also detect breast cancer, oral cancer, gum disease, and viral hepatitis in your saliva! Saliva samples can also help doctors understand a person’s immune system.
Functions of Saliva
Your saliva is hugely important for hygiene, digestion, wellness, and more. Some functions of saliva include:
- Calcium, fluoride and phosphate ions keep teeth healthy and strong
- Antibacterial compounds fight disease in your mouth and prevent cavities and infections
- Helps you taste your food
- Moistens your food and enzymes break it down to aid digestion
- Washes food and debris off your gums and teeth
- Maintains countless overall health functions that we learn more about every day
The more you chew, the more saliva you make. If you have problems chewing, or if your mouth seems overly dry, it’s important to see the dentist right away. People usually make less saliva at night, which is why it’s extra important to brush your teeth before bed.
Health Risks & Benefits of Saliva
Your health depends on your saliva and having just enough of it. Without saliva, you would be very uncomfortable, have trouble eating, and your breath would smell awful. Smoking, certain diseases, and prescription medicines can cause saliva deficiency.
It can also be a problem if your body makes too much saliva (hello, drool). A dentist or doctor can treat you for either too little or too much saliva. Remember to avoid contact with another person’s saliva if they have a contagious illness because spit can carry those germs.
Treating a saliva imbalance can have many benefits for your overall health, including things like:
- Male pattern baldness
- Heart problems
- Cold body temperature
- Sleep problems
- Inability to absorb calcium
- Trouble conceiving children
It’s easy to take your spit for granted, but you’ll notice right away if anything is wrong with it. If you have any questions about saliva or how it’s related to your health, make an appointment at McKay Center for Cosmetic & General Dentistry today. We can help you achieve your best oral health and overall wellness!
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.