When you think of your oral health, you may consider your teeth or your gum health. Brushing and flossing your teeth may be high on your list of priorities. While this is true, other vital parts of your oral health may need your focus. Your teeth and gums provide many essential functions. However, your saliva is necessary to keep them both healthy.
Your mouth is home to all types of bacteria—both good and bad. Some bacteria are vital for your oral environment, and some can be harmful. One type of harmful bacteria is plaque. When you brush and floss your teeth, your goal is to remove plaque from all surfaces. Plaque buildup is one of the leading factors in tooth decay and gum disease.
The longer plaque stays, the more damage it does to your teeth and soft tissues. Plaque creates a reaction with sugar and leftover food particles, forming an acid. This acid erodes the protective enamel on your teeth, making it easier for tooth decay to set in.
Saliva helps to neutralize the harmful bacteria in your mouth. This means that it evens the balance of good and bad bacteria. In fact, saliva has essential vitamins and minerals that help strengthen your enamel. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria feed on them, removing vital minerals. Your saliva contains these same minerals, which help balance this process.
Dry mouth is a condition where your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva for your mouth to stay moist. Not only is this uncomfortable for you, but it is also damaging to your teeth and gums. Your mouth needs a moist environment to keep healthy. Without it, you are more susceptible to developing tooth decay or gum disease. This is because bacteria thrive in a dry climate. Without saliva to neutralize them or wash them away, the bacteria will begin to multiply.
People with dry mouths tend to have more plaque buildup, increasing the bacteria. Additionally, dry mouth causes bad breath. You may also feel more dehydrated.
Rinse Your Mouth
Another benefit of saliva is its function of removing food particles from your mouth. Even without rinsing your mouth with water, your saliva helps remove leftover foods as you swallow. This isn’t just a factor of comfort; it minimizes the materials for bacteria. The more food particles you have in your mouth, the more fuel the bacteria have to multiply. Fortunately, your saliva naturally gets rid of leftover food.
On top of strengthening your teeth, your saliva is vital for eating. As you chew, saliva helps to break down the food into smaller pieces, making it easier to swallow. In fact, this is the first stage of digestion. Saliva chemically breaks down your food before it passes down your esophagus to your stomach. Also, saliva contains the chemicals needed to start digestion.