Why is Saliva Important
Why is saliva important?
Saliva is 99% water and is secreted by the salivary glands. It contains lubricants that help fight infection as well as enzymes and proteins which help us digest our food. Healthy adults produce 3 pints of saliva a day.
If for some reason the amount of saliva is reduced then the soft tissues of the mouth become irritated making them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. The tongue can also become sensitive (burning tongue syndrome). Also without saliva to wash away food debris and neutralize the acids produced by plaque the teeth are more susceptible to dental cavities. What’s more, without the lubricating effect of saliva, you may find it difficult to swallow, talk, and chew your food. It might be more difficult to taste foods as well.
Dry mouth syndrome (Xerostomia)
This is a condition where there is reduced saliva in the mouth leaving a dry uncomfortable feeling. It can be a temporary or chronic problem. One or more factors can cause your salivary glands to function improperly and produce less saliva than normal:
- Side-effect of certain medications, there are more than 400 medications, both over the counter and prescription, that can cause a reduction in the amount of saliva produced.
- Medical conditions, such as sjogrens syndrome, diabetes or stroke
- Stress or anxiety
The condition can affect any age group but mainly older adults. The main complaints are: –
- A dry, sticky feeling in the mouth or throat.
- Saliva that feels thick or stringy
- A rough, dry or sore tongue,
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing, chewing or talking
- Sore chapped lips
- Altered sense of taste
- A mouth infection
Your dentist will be able to examine your mouth for possible complications of dry mouth (ie. Cavities, irritation, infection) as well as ask you questions about the symptoms and any medications you are taking. There are a number of simple treatments that are designed to restore moisture to your mouth. Your dentist may recommend:-
- Sugar free chewing gum or pastilles which are especially made to stimulate salivary flow.
- Specially formulated oral rinses
- Artificial saliva
- More fluid intake
- Oral moisturizers (sprays or gels)
- Prescription medication to induce saliva production