Take It From a Dentist in Austin, TX: The Power of Saliva
Oral health is important. Any dentist you’d ask would agree on this as scientific fact. Bad oral health is linked to a lot of health issues; some of which are more recognizable than others. But there is so much focus on teeth and the gumline that most people don’t think about something else that plays an important part of oral health. Saliva. There are so many things that saliva contributes to. Especially when it comes to oral health. So. what are they, and how do we produce saliva in the first place? Let’s find out.
Saliva comes from the sympathetic nervous system, as well as the parasympathetic nervous system. That means that its production is done completely without our conscious action. The salivary glands run entirely on both reflex and work as part of the stimulation of feeding and digesting.
Humans specifically produce a range of 1-.75 liters of saliva a day while awake. However, when asleep, they don’t produce that much. The main glands that are specifically responsible for saliva production are the submandibular gland, the sublingual gland, and the parotid gland. The other two secretes about 2/3 of the saliva in a day, and the parotid gland produces at around 25%. They are both located inside the mouth and behind the ear.
But what is saliva made of?
While it is made mostly of water at 99.5% if you get to the microscopic level, you realize it is made of so much more. Dentists and oral hygienists recently took notice that the rest of the percentage of the saliva is composed of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, iodine and mucus.
Also, it contains a whopping 8 million human and 500 million bacterial cells. Most of these cells can range from beneficial to outright dangerous.
This makes saliva far more complex than what most people who don’t understand it are lead to believe. But what is the purpose behind saliva? Is it only for breaking down food, or is there more to it based on this complicated composition?
The Benefits and Functions of Saliva
One of the more common and universally understood purposes of the function of saliva is food digestion. A cell of note that is important for the function of saliva breaking down food is the acinar cell. The Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine explains, ” In most species, the serous and acinar cells secrete an alpha-amylase which can begin to digest dietary starch into maltose.” So, we know saliva is powerful enough to break down dietary starches.
However, there are more HYPERLINK “https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/saliva.htm”digestive purposes of saliva than just breaking down food. It also serves as lubrication. The mucus in saliva binds to chewed food to make it easier to slide down the throat.
Another purpose behind saliva is natural oral hygiene. According to the same journal entry, ” The oral cavity is almost constantly flushed with saliva, which floats away food debris and keeps the mouth relatively clean.” It also contains lysozyme, an enzyme that destroys or dissolves harmful bacteria and prevents the overgrowth of excess microbial populations. ( It’s important to note that your saliva can only do so much of this. You still need to engage in oral hygienic practices.)
We know this because when we stop saliva production at night, we get bad breath in the morning. Which comes from harmful bacteria.
Now that we know how the benefits of saliva for everyone, how does it benefit the dental and medical community?
How Saliva Helps the Dentist
Dentists and other medical communities began to learn leaps and bounds ever since they start to study it in depth. For example, the number of proteins in saliva outnumber the proteins found in blood. According to the dentists and medical community, “There is a growing interest in saliva as a diagnostic fluid, due to its relatively simple and minimally invasive collection. It is considerably easier, safer, and more economical to collect saliva than to draw blood, especially in children and elderly patients. – in the future, they could prove to be a potentially life-saving alternative to detect diseases where early diagnosis is critical, such as certain cancers.”
Doctors and dentists can also analyze the amount of saliva to diagnose disease. Too little saliva can be a sign of diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and too much radiation. Too much saliva could serve as signs of cerebral palsy, pregnancy, or rabies.
Saliva is far more important to oral hygiene than most people realize. It is one important piece to the puzzle of better dental health. Talk to your dentist if you think you are having any issues with your saliva, or just ask them about it at your next checkup.