What do you think when you hear the word saliva? Cute baby drool-bubbles? Gross spit on the sidewalk? An amazing bacteria-fighting superhero in your mouth? Get ready to get excited about saliva, one of the most important fluids in oral health! It plays a significant role in maintaining not just your teeth and gums, but also your overall health. Here are five fun facts about your mouth’s little helper that will make your mouth water:
1. You produce a lot of saliva each day. According to one study, people can, on average, produce up to almost 3 cups of saliva daily!
2. Saliva is critical to maintaining your oral health:
- It helps protect the gums and teeth by diluting and eliminating sugars.
- It is an anti-microbial and stops the growth of bacteria.
- It helps balance the mineral content and pH of your mouth.
- It contains proteins, which help your mouth heal from minor injuries and prevents cavities.
3. Saliva aids in digestion. Since saliva is mostly water, it helps dissolve food molecules and makes it easier to swallow.
4. You need saliva to taste your food! Your taste buds have cells called chemoreceptors that require a liquid for the flavor molecules to bind to the receptor molecules. Saliva also contains enzymes that affect how you experience sweet and starchy foods. Do a test at home! Dry off your tongue with a paper towel and place some salt on it. Next, rinse your mouth with water and taste the salt again. You will notice a difference!
5. Saliva can be used to test for and diagnose disease! According to the ADA, salivary diagnostics is currently one of dentistry’s most promising areas of research. Saliva contains various proteins as well as RNA molecules that contain the biomarkers for certain diseases or conditions. Since saliva can be collected easily and non-invasively, this is an exciting development in the field of diagnostics. Currently, saliva can be used to help diagnose HIV, diabetes, and some oral cancers. More research needs to be done, but this also means that in the future dentists may be able to assist in their patient’s primary care and identify potential systemic diseases earlier so patients can get treatment sooner.
Who knew that saliva was so busy working your mouth! Keep your mouth happy and healthy by coming in for regular cleanings. Give us a call at 207.781.5900 if you need to schedule your next appointment!
*Image courtesy of https://diabeticfootonline.com/