Chew your food and keep your mouth closed when you do it! You can hear your mom and dad yelling this across the dinner table as you were somehow trying to inhale a plate of mac n cheese, while at the same time joking around with your siblings. You were being rude (come on, admit it) and they let you know it.
Fast forward to today. Hopefully, you don’t try to speak with a mouth full of food to people across the table. If you do—stop now. There’s a dental benefit to chewing your food thoroughly, believe it or not. Chewing prevents cavities.
The power of spit
Chewing your food for a longer period of time exposes your food to more saliva. Saliva is made up of 99.5% water and is produced by 3 different glands in your mouth. These glands are found in your cheeks (between your ear and nose), on the floor of your mouth, and underneath your tongue.
The electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds and various enzymes make saliva the mouth’s dental hygienist.
Saliva helps to:
- Balance our mouth’s PH. Many of our foods and beverages, though, are highly acidic, which can raise the mouth’s acid level. The acidic environment causes demineralization, which softens the minerals in tooth enamel. Saliva neutralizes any remaining acid for about 30-60 minutes after we eat.
- Clear leftover food. Bacteria are responsible for much of the dental disease that plagues us, particularly tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva clears the mouth of food remnants, bacteria’s primary feeding source, after we eat. This leaves a cleaner mouth and fewer bacteria to cause infection.
- Build your teeth. Your teeth aren’t protected when they first emerge from the gum line. Calcium, phosphate and fluoride in saliva help to fill in the weak parts of the new enamel and make the teeth strong.