You may not think much about saliva, but this combination of water, electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, and white blood cells does more than you think . Salivary glands in your mouth secrete saliva to keep the oral cavity moist—up to 1.5 liters a day.
However, saliva does so much more than that. So what exactly is the role of saliva when it comes to your oral and bodily health? Here’s how spit does more than you think.
Helps You Know When to Drink Water
One of the most surprising things saliva does is helps you know when you’re dehydrated. Your salivary glands will become dehydrated when your body does, which causes dry mouth . When your mouth is dry, it signals your brain that it’s time to drink more water. Of course, it’s best to drink water before you feel thirsty, but better late than never!
Keeps Your Mouth Clean
Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria that can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease . However, it also contains minerals such as calcium, fluoride, and phosphorus that can help strengthen tooth enamel and protect against enamel damage. Without enough saliva, bacteria and acids that result from poor oral hygiene or breaking down food particles can lead to tooth enamel damage, including tooth sensitivity and decay.
Makes It Easier for You to Speak and Taste
Although it’s also how we spread droplets of saliva when speaking, saliva lubricates the lips and helps humans more easily pronounce words that start with letters such as “p”, “b”, “t”, and “d” . However, saliva is important for speech in general, not just with words limited to these letters.
Saliva also plays an integral role in taste receptor cells on your tongue—it helps protect taste receptors and transport taste substances to the receptors . Ultimately, saliva interacts with the food you eat to help buffer bitter or sour tastes and allow for proper function and maintenance of your taste buds.
May Help Kill Viruses and Bacteria
Did you know saliva also has antimicrobial properties? Saliva’s antimicrobial nature can stop the growth of viruses and bacteria in the oral cavity . This is a crucial feature of saliva, since the oral cavity is one of the main ways pathogens get into the body. This means that staying hydrated may just help lower your risk for illness and oral infections, therefore helping you keep your smile and your body healthy.
Did Any of These Facts Surprise You?
Now that you know how important saliva is to your oral health and even your bodily health, you know how important it is to prevent dry mouth and stay hydrated. Do you suffer from chronic dry mouth? If so, follow up with your dentist to learn how you can reduce your symptomsto protect your teeth and gums!