Why are we interested in your spit?
Your medical information provides us with valuable information that may help us understand the conditions in your mouth. A review of your medical history can reveal that some of your medications, illnesses and therapies are affecting your saliva, which in turn, can have an impact on your dental health. We need a certain amount and consistency of saliva to keep our mouth and teeth healthy.
Saliva, commonly known as spit, is an amazing component of our body. It is designed to be so effective in bathing and protecting our teeth and maintaining a healthy pH-level in our mouth that, along with crunchy, natural cleansing foods, early humans experienced very little decay. But, our eating habits have changed drastically and the environment of our mouth and the amount of bad bacteria, in addition to the effects of medications, illnesses or therapies, hinders the effectiveness of our saliva’s medicinal properties.
Why is Spit so Important?
On average, a healthy person produces about a litre of saliva a day. Saliva production increases during eating, however, at night our saliva production halts which is why it is important to remember to brush and floss before you go to sleep! Saliva is 99% water and 1% electrolytes, mucus, glycoproteins, enzymes, and some antibacterial compounds. Disruptions in the quality or quantity of saliva has a significant impact on the environment of our mouth. Only when we see the destructive nature of a dry mouth can we truly appreciate how important saliva is.
Saliva is key in:
– washing foods and debris away from teeth and
– helping to dilute and eliminate sugars left in your mouth after swallowing
– restoring the acidity of the mouth to a healthier, neutral pH-level
– helping to prevent the breakdown of the hard parts of the teeth
– creating the suction between dentures and the gums.
– replacing minerals that have “leeched out” of the teeth during the acid attack process.
– aids the digestion process by breaking down starches and fats we eat
– lubricating our foods making it easier to swallow
– keeping mouth tissues moist
– normal sense of taste
– helping us speak
When we produce less saliva or the consistency of our saliva is thick it can leave our mouth dryer than normal. A dry mouth has a huge impact on our dental health resulting in:
To learn more about dry mouth read our article here.
If you are suffering from persistent dry mouth, there are solutions. Oral rinses can supplement the moisture in your mouth and sugarless gums or candies can help stimulate the production of saliva in your mouth.
Saliva and Tartar Formation
Ever wonder how you get that hard gunk on your teeth that only your dental team can remove? That is bacterial rich plaque that you did not remove while brushing or flossing your teeth and has now hardened onto your teeth. It is mushy and sticky at first, but then minerals from our salvia start to mix with this soft plaque and it begins to become so hard that we have to use specialized instruments to scrape (scale) it off.
We call this material calculus and it can be found above and below your gum line and in between your teeth. There tends to be a higher concentration of calculus on the cheek side of upper molars and behind the lower front teeth as these areas are directly next to where our saliva ducts secrete salvia into the mouth.
Plaque can also accumulate and harden on dentures or other dental appliances that are not removed and cleaned often enough. This calculus is very destructive to teeth and gums.
Tartar and Tooth Sensitivity
For some people, who have allowed this material to build up and remain on their teeth for a very long time, having it removed can result in increased tooth sensitivity to cold and hot temperatures. This is because the calculus destroyed the gum tissue that would normally cover the tooth’s root surface. The root is not as highly mineralized (hard) as our tooth enamel and is therefore more sensitive to changes in temperatures and acidic foods.
Saliva and Cavities
The cavity process begins when bacteria “eat” and ferment the sugar we provide them creating acids. It is a complex process that is affected by many factors, but simply put, this acid attacks our teeth and can dissolve some of the important minerals that make up the hard parts of our teeth. The saliva starts the repair process by hardening the affected areas of the teeth by depositing minerals. This demineralization (acid attack) and remineralization (repair) happens every time we consume sugars and acids in our diet. It can become a constant battle throughout the day if you eat frequently.
Saliva and our Diet
A healthy mouth has a pH of between 6.75 and 7.25 and the key is trying to maintain this level in order to keep disease at bay. When the pH-level becomes more acidic the harmful bacteria begin to multiply and dominate. One thing you can do to help maintain a neutral pH-level in the mouth and a healthy level of beneficial bacteria is to adopt a diet that is low in simple carbohydrates or sugars and to reduce the amount of meals you eat during the day. We cannot emphasize this enough.
The Dangers of Snacking
It is important to remember, however, that this repair process can take up to 4-5 hours and should not be interrupted by eating more sugars or acidic foods. This is an essential consideration and should not be left out of the healthy foods conversation, especially when you are trying to reduce cavities for yourself and your children.
Demineralization and Toothbrushing
It is not recommended that your brush your teeth immediately after an acid attack. The hard surfaces of the teeth that have been softened by acids are vulnerable to the scrubbing action of your toothbrush bristles. You will cause less additional wear to your teeth if you wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking.
The Miracle of Saliva
We constantly get bombarded by information about making healthy choices and changing our lifestyles in order to obtain and maintain our well-being. What if we told you that by focusing on the health of your mouth you can make significant inroads towards a healthier you?
For years the world of dentistry has been telling patients that if they brushed and flossed and visited the dentist regularly they’d have healthy mouths that were free of disease. But over the years, we’ve seen that, sometimes, this isn’t enough. We see cavities in patients who care for their teeth and gums as instructed, while others with mouths full of plaque and irregular care have little to no cavities and even no alarming degree of gingivitis. The old adage that, “You are what you eat” is an essential part of the equation, but so is, “When you eat.”
We are still learning about the miracle of saliva and are gaining new insights into the complex relationship of all the different types of bacteria in the mouth. While many people find saliva and it’s accumulation in the mouth to be revolting, our Your Smile Dental Care team truly appreciate it’s unique medicinal and diagnostic properties … and that’s nothing to spit at!
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care team