Healthy saliva levels are essential for teeth and gum protection.
Looking after your teeth is not overly difficult, with a little care and attention. It is, however, multi-faceted and requires a number of care factors to come together for the best protection possible against tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health issues.
Most of our regular Greenwich dental patients are aware of most of these, and, in addition to watching what they eat and drink, will regularly brush their teeth, and hopefully floss too. Combine this with visits to the Confidental Clinic for regular checks on their oral health, and they are hopefully well on their way to having a healthy mouth.
There are also other factors though, which can affect the health of our teeth and gums, and one in particular can affect older patients, as well as those who have type 2 diabetes. That is the lack of efficient saliva production.
Why is saliva important?
Apart from the fact that a lack of saliva produces a dry mouth and can lead to us feeling dehydrated and tired, it is also essential for oral health protection. The most obvious way in which it does this is through washing away food and bacteria from our mouth as we drink and swallow. This isn’t its only role though.
Saliva is important as it helps to keep the number of potentially harmful bacteria in our mouth under control. By doing this, it reduces the risk of infections to both teeth and gums. As we have mentioned in other blogs, a lack of saliva, and therefore a dry mouth, is a significant factor in common gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Making sure that you are sufficiently hydrated, especially at night, is a positive move in keeping teeth and gums in overall good health.
It is also worth mentioning, of course, that saliva also plays an important role in the breakdown and digestion of our food. It also enhances taste (hence why some older people find that their sense of taste is reduced in their later years), and also lubricates around muscles in our mouth which helps with our speech. Finally, a lack of water in the system is a well known contributor to constipation.
Acidity reduction and minerals
Saliva also plays a role in keeping a healthy balance between an acidic and alkaline environment within the mouth. If the mouth becomes too acidic, then your tooth enamel may erode and increase the risk of not only tooth decay but also root canal infections.
Although saliva is made up of around 99% water, it also contains important electrolytes and proteins which help to promote good oral health and aid in the remineralisation of your teeth after you have eaten.
What causes poor saliva flow?
There can be a number of factors that lead to a lack of saliva. The most obvious of these is simple dehydration, especially, though not always, in hotter weather. Older people too, generally, produce less saliva than younger people. Those with diabetes also commonly produce less saliva than the average healthy person. Even with good saliva flow though, your mouth can still be dry at night if you regularly breathe through your mouth when you sleep, rather than through your nose.
What you can do
The most obvious thing that you can do to prevent a dry mouth is to make sure that you drink enough water. We do say water too, as many other drinks are very high in sugars and acids. Water will also help to flush away food and bacteria from your mouth as well. Always try to maintain your hydration levels throughout the day rather than waiting until your mouth feels dry before taking a drink.
Another simple way of helping to prevent a dry mouth is to chew a sugar free gum. This will stimulate the salivary glands and ease any dryness that might otherwise occur. Diabetics can also take advantage of the methods above, but it may be also worth asking your GP if there is anything they can do to help you with this issue. They may be able to recommend medication for the problem for example.
Ensuring that your mouth is continually moist is a great contribution to its overall health. Make sure that this is just a part of your overall oral health care regimen though and continue to brush, floss and see one of our Greenwich dental team for regular check ups.
To make an appointment to see a dentist, or the dental hygienist at the Confidental Clinic, please call us on 020 8858 1422 during practice opening hours.