Though many of us don’t need to be told what saliva is, it is doubtful that we understand everything that it does. Saliva, the substance secreted from glands in our mouths, is helpful in a number of different ways. Comprised mainly of water and various enzymes, saliva is not only important to digestion, but overall dental health as well.
The most obvious function of saliva is lubrication. As we eat, saliva is produced, beginning the digestive process. In fact, in some cases even before we eat, our bodies may begin to produce saliva in preparation for the food we plan on consuming. Saliva helps soften the items in our mouths, making them easier to swallow. It also coats the lining of the throat making it easier for items to pass through. Additionally, the enzymes in saliva will begin to breakdown some of the food items – preparing them for further digestion in the stomach.
Even after we’re done eating, saliva is still hard at work clearing the mouth of any remaining food particles. Food particles that are left in the mouth after eating can eventually lead to bacteria production and cavities. For this reason, some dentists suggest that patients chew a piece of gum after every meal as a way to induce additional saliva production.
A lesser known function, saliva also plays a key role in strengthening teeth and protecting against infection. Saliva is constantly washing over the teeth in our mouths. As it does, various compounds are deposited that strengthen the outer enamel. It will also continually cleanse these areas, ridding them of potentially infectious bacteria.
Saliva is not enough, however, to protect your teeth. Proper brushing and flossing are still necessary to maintain overall dental health.