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Saliva — Not Just Spit!

Here at Stratman Family Dentistry, we believe that knowledge is power. We’d like to share some of our knowledge with you – knowledge about your amazing mouth and all of its parts! We know that the better you understand your mouth and teeth, the better you will be able to tend to your oral health.

Let’s spend a minute looking at something that’s so common we don’t even think about it, unless there’s a problem. That substance is saliva, or common, ordinary spit. What needs does saliva fulfill for us? What happens if we don’t have enough or we have too much saliva? 

What Is Saliva?

Saliva is formed in salivary glands found throughout the mouth. It is 99% water, with some electrolytes, digestive enzymes, mucus, white blood cells, and a few other components. It passes out of the gland and into the mouth via salivary ducts. Saliva, like other fluids formed by the body, can create stones. Salioliths (salivary stones) can form, blocking the duct and causing saliva to back up. They are benign and usually easily removed. Another condition involving the salivary glands is mumps, or parotitis. With mumps, the parotid salivary glands painfully swell, giving mumps victims the typical swollen cheeks or neck.

It’s Hard to Eat Without Saliva

Saliva is actually the first digestive enzyme that food encounters as it enters your body. Two enzymes in saliva, amylase and lipase, begin the process of breaking down dietary starches and fats into their simpler components. The other big function that saliva serves in eating is lubrication. We all know what it is like trying to swallow food with a parched mouth!

A Dry Mouth is Not a Healthy Mouth

There are conditions and medications which cause a dry mouth, or xerostomia (xero- means dry or arid and -stomia is a condition of the mouth). An abnormally dry mouth can cause a number of significant oral and dental problems:

  • Halitosis, or bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Sores in mouth
  • Cracked lips

In other words, a dry mouth can be far more than just an inconvenience.

Healthy saliva is crucial for a healthy mouth. To find out more about how Dr. Stratman and the whole team here at Stratman Family Dentistry can help you maintain a healthy mouth, please schedule an appointment or give us a call at 520-745-6871.