Most people don’t think much or pay attention to saliva when they think or plan out their oral health, but it plays an important role in keeping our mouths and the whole body healthy. Saliva is a transparent and clear liquid that is mostly composed of water, which is secreted by salivary glands found in the mouth area. If you experience abnormal salivation like less or too much saliva in your mouth, you should contact an experienced dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Apart from lubricating food for easy swallowing and making it easy for us to speak, saliva has many other benefits that we will discuss as you continue reading this article. Contact Tarzana Dental Care if you have salivary flow issues, we can measure saliva Ph and assess our patients’ saliva flow during our initial exam and follow-up recall exams.
What is Saliva?
Saliva is an essential clear fluid in our mouth, which is secreted by salivary glands found in the mouth area to maintain the environment of the mouth healthy. Whenever you say something is making your mouth watery when you see tasty foods, you acknowledge that you are secreting saliva or salivating. Salivation is the process by which a person secretes saliva when anxious, nervous, chewing, or sucking something smooth like a candy.
Saliva contains 98% water and other components such as proteins, minerals, mucus, and enzymes that work together to make your mouth healthy. There are six salivary glands found in the mouth area around the cheeks that secretes saliva, but there are three major salivary glands which secrete saliva in the mouth, that is:
- Submandibular glands
- Parotid glands
- Sublingual glands
When you are thinking of improving your oral health, you should always pay attention to your rate of salivation and inform your dentist whenever you experience less or excess saliva in your mouth.
Benefits of Saliva That You Need to Beware
Despite being despised and frowned sometimes for having a lot of saliva in your mouth, which appears unhygienic, it is very important to have saliva in your mouth for your oral health. Saliva is a crucial fluid in our mouth, making normal day-to-day activities possible because of its unique composition, which protects the mouth environment. Here are top-notch benefits of saliva that you need to beware for proper treatment action whenever you’re experiencing abnormal salivation:
Saliva Removes Mouth Waste
Saliva helps clean the mouth naturally by removing waste materials that accumulate after eating or drinking. Saliva accumulates and removes yeast, viruses, and bacteria, which usually attach to the teeth from the food we eat or from the air that could’ve otherwise caused dental-related infections.
Saliva Prevents Dental and Gum Infections
Most of the meals we consume every day contain acidic contents that can erode teeth enamel if it weren’t for saliva, which neutralizes the acidic contents to a non-toxic level. The natural flow and generation of saliva help counter and wash away food materials and sugar left in the mouth that, when broken down, can produce acidic contents that can cause dental caries or gum infections. For instance, when you consume food that is rich in starch like bread, the carbohydrate, which is the main constituent of bread, may block and interfere with the natural flow of saliva.
To ensure free secretion and flow of saliva throughout the mouth, an enzyme found in saliva known as amylase breaks down such carbohydrates to sugars for easy assimilation in the body. When you swallow saliva, some amounts of saliva stick in your esophagus, which acts as a protective shield to counter harmful and irritating food materials or drinks, which can cause heartburn. Saliva also contains useful minerals such as calcium and phosphate, which improves the tooth enamel’s strength.
Saliva Helps in Digestion
Immediately when you smell delicious food or start chewing, your salivary glands begin to secrete saliva to prepare the mouth for the digestion process. Saliva stimulates your taste buds and lubricates food for easy swallowing, which is an integral part of digestion. The amylase enzyme found in saliva plays an important role in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into sugar, which your body can easily assimilate. If you have reduced saliva in your mouth, you will most likely experience chewing and speaking difficulties. In that situation, you should consult with your dentist as soon as possible for a check-up of the probable cause of the dry mouth.
Saliva Fosters Formation of Healthy Plaque Biofilm
When most people hear the word “plaque,” they always tend to associate it with something bad when it comes to oral health, but there is a healthy plaque biofilm that is useful and essential in the mouth. Saliva contains immune proteins that foster growth and movement of healthy plaque biofilm in the mouth.
After flossing and cleaning your teeth of any food particles or any bad plaque, the teeth’ enamel surface becomes coated with a pellicle. The pellicle is a salivary protein that attracts free-floating bacteria in the mouth together and accumulates them into large crumps for easy disposal when you swallow the saliva or spit. After the healthy plaque biofilm’s growth and formation, saliva will be essential in removing the mouth’s waste.
Further, the pellicle also protects the teeth against demineralization, which is triggered by acidic content in the mouth, thus reversing the tooth decaying process.
Saliva Has a Healing Effect
Saliva is an essential cleaning, sanitizing, and healing agent. That is why it’s common to see people applying saliva in wounded areas of their skin in most cultures. When you bite any oral tissue, saliva helps in the wound’s quick healing because it contains vascular endothelial and epidermal growth factors that help repair and regeneration soft tissues in the mouth.
Saliva Makes Teeth Dentures Secure and Stable
Saliva is vital in creating suction between the gum tissue and the dentures to make them stable and secure. If you’re a denture wearer, you should not worry about your dentures because saliva retains and stabilizes the dentures in place. However, as you grow old, your salivary rate may reduce, and, in that case, you should consult with a dentist for other supplement options to boost your salivary rate and secure your dentures for more years. Saliva is also an important lubricant that prevents irritation and abrasion of the gum tissues underneath the dentures, thus keeping them secure and stable for longer service.
Saliva is an Important Medical Diagnostic Tool
It has become apparent to many scientists, doctors, and dentists that saliva is an important diagnostic tool because it makes it possible to conduct large scale infection screening and epidemiologic studies. Saliva is a useful diagnostic tool for testing and screening various types of human diseases such as HIV, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and other infections. It contains biomarkers such as electrolytes, antibodies, proteins, and DNA/RNA. The benefit of using saliva samples as a diagnostic tool includes:
- Collection of the saliva sample is painless and non-invasive to the patient
- Better patient acceptance in contrast to other diagnostic means such as the use of stool or blood
- Use of saliva as a diagnostic tool reduces the risk of infectious disease transmission
- Collection of saliva samples does not require onsite equipment or special training hence making it possible to conduct diagnosis at home whenever you cannot make it to the dentist clinic due to other home chores or personal reasons
What are the Causes and Treatment of Unbalanced Salivation?
As seen above, saliva is an essential component of everyone's oral health and the body as well. However, sometimes it is possible to experience less or too much salivation, which could result from a variety of factors that we will discuss below. If you’re experiencing less or too much salivation, you should seek dentist services as soon as possible for diagnosis. Here are oral issues related to unbalanced salivation, causes, and treatment options:
Less Saliva in the Mouth (Dry Mouth)
Maintaining a constant saliva flow is an integral part of keeping your teeth, gums, and the whole body healthy. Less saliva in the mouth, also commonly known as “dry mouth,” or sometimes scientifically known as xerostomia, is not a disease. Dry mouth might be a symptom of underlying health conditions that lead to reduced saliva in your mouth. Typically, as you grow older, it is possible to experience less salivation even if there aren’t any underlying health conditions.
Dry mouth causes an imbalance of saliva in the mouth, making tissues in the mouth swollen and making it difficult to swallow food down the throat. Plus, it also forms a friendly environment for bacteria growth, which can lead to teeth infection and decay. When you notice that you have dry mouth, you should schedule an appointment with your family dentist or find one within your location for diagnosis and treatment.
Apart from aging, most dentists have found the following to cause dry mouth/xerostomia in most patients:
- Cancer treatments procedures such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- Particular types of prescription and non-prescription medicines such as antidepressants and analgesics, anti-anxiety or sometimes excessive alcohol consumption
- Chronic health conditions such as depression, HIV/AIDs, diabetes, or stress
- Severe neck or head injuries may also damage nerves responsible for sending impulses to salivary glands for saliva secretion.
Luckily, a dentist may be able to find a variety of treatment options for dry mouth issues depending on the patient’s underlying health conditions causing less salivation. Often a dentist will recommend the following treatment options to ease the effect of dry mouth:
- Since dehydration can make you produce less saliva, your dentist will recommend you to consume plenty of water daily
- Sucking sugar-free candy and chewing sugar-free or mints to help you salivate
- Use of artificial saliva, which contains the minerals and proteins as real saliva to help you keep your mouth moist and comfortable. Artificial saliva is a water-like liquid which is sold without any kind prescription since you can use anytime you feel your mouth is dry
- Change of medications that might be inhibiting normal salivation. For that, you may have to contact your healthcare provider for prescription of different medications
- Mouth rinse about four to six times a day with baking soda solution to prevent or reduce bacterial infection which might cause cavities
- Continue brushing and flossing your teeth, as usual, using fluoride rinse or fluoride toothpaste
- Visit your dentist often and regularly for dental check-ups
- Avoid tobacco smoking
- Avoid drinking acidic juices such as orange juice
- Avoid food with too much salt
- Avoid any type of food which is hard to chew such as crackers or toast
- Avoid alcohol drinking because it causes dehydration
Saliva is a critical component of your overall oral health, and it is therefore very important to identify issues causing less salivation as soon as possible to avoid any possible health complications. If you’ve got an issue with your rate of saliva secretion, it would be a brilliant idea to talk to a dentist to determine the cause of your dry mouth and remedy to the issue.
Too Much Saliva in the Mouth (Hypersalivation)
You may experience too much saliva in your mouth if there is a decreased salivary clearance. Your body routinely clears the excess saliva by swallowing more. Unlike dry mouth, too much saliva in your mouth, also known as hypersalivation, is not something to worry about because sometimes it's normal. Other times, it can be triggered by underlying health conditions such as mumps or tonsils.
You may also produce too much saliva if you’ve got a problem swallowing or if you’ve got an overactive salivary gland. A salivary gland may become over-reactive because of consuming very spicy foods. The taste buds in your tongue play a very significant role in the salivation process. Therefore, if you tend to eat acidic or spicy foods often, your body will react by producing more saliva.
If you notice you’ve got too much saliva in your mouth constantly every day that may even start drooling sometimes, you should seek dentist services to examine the cause of the excess salivation. People with weak muscles on their face and mouth are more likely to experience chronic drooling because of the inability to close mouth well, which causes decreased salivary clearance. Below are common causes of hypersalivation:
- Excess starch intake
- Jaw fractures or dislocation
- Cerebral palsy
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Intellectual disability
- Enlarged tongue
- Medications such as Klonopin (clonazepam) and Salagen (pilocarpine) which treats seizure and dry mouth respectively
There is no specific treatment for hypersalivation because every patient has different underlying health conditions leading to too much saliva in the mouth. To cure hypersalivation, the dentist or the healthcare provider will focus on avoiding or treating the underlying causes of too much saliva in your mouth. Typically, the treatment for hypersalivation may include:
Use of Prescription Medicine
When treating hypersalivation, a dentist will first prescribe specific types of medications to reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth, such as:
The use of the above medicines is helpful because it works by inhibiting your salivation rate to reduce the amount of saliva accumulated in your mouth. The use of these drugs might cause some side effects such as frequent urination, dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision, and a fast heartbeat, which your dentist will inform you before leaving the clinic.
Injection of Botox Shots
For severe drooling cases, a dentist will recommend Botox injections into the salivary glands. An injection of Botox works by inhibiting chemicals that turn on the salivary glands to produce more saliva. Dentists and other health providers consider this form of hypersalivation treatment safe for a patient. However, Botox injection results only last for one month, which means you’ve to schedule an appointment with your dentist for future injections.
Finally, in very severe complications, your dentist may have to suggest surgery as a correction or treatment method for the hypersalivation issue if other treatment methods are in vain. Some patient’s underlying health issues may also force a dentist to conduct surgery to treat the hypersalivation issue. Surgery is necessary if a dentist has to re-route a salivary duct or remove the salivary gland, which is producing too much saliva.
After treatment, a dentist will recommend you clean and rinse your teeth often with products containing alcohol for quicker recovery since alcohol has useful drying effects, which will reduce the amount of saliva in your mouth. As seen above, saliva’s benefits in your mouth and your body’s wellness and health can never be undermined. If you experience any abnormal salivation, that is, less or too much saliva in your mouth, you must consult a dentist for diagnosis to avoid any possible severe complications.
Find a Dentist Near Me
For optimal wellness and healthiness of your whole mouth, you can never overlook the benefits of saliva. Not only does less or too much saliva in the mouth cause uncomfortableness, but it can also lead to more unwanted health complications if there is no dentist intervention. At Tarzana Dental Care, we understand the connection of your oral health and general body health. Therefore, our professional and experienced dentists approach every oral health issue very seriously regardless of the severity. Call us today at 818-708-3232 to schedule an appointment with our professionals if you’re experiencing any salivation abnormality.