Believe it or not, saliva and gum health often go hand in hand, due to the lubricating and protective properties of proper salivary flow. Gum inflammation and oral bacteria can increase one’s risk for various adverse health outcomes and diseases.1 For this reason, doing everything you can do to keep your gums clean and free of disease is essential for good oral health. That also means that by supporting gum health, having adequate saliva in your mouth is important to your overall oral health.
What Is Saliva? The Correlation Between Saliva And Gum Health
Saliva is a naturally produced liquid that is released by the salivary glands in the mouth. 99% of saliva is made up of water, while the last 1% of the substance contains a range of electrolytes and proteins.2
There is a multitude of important roles that saliva plays in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Here are a couple of the many benefits that come with having ample saliva in the mouth:
#1: Decreased Risk For Cavities and Gum Disease
Both cavities and gum disease are often caused by an excess of plaque in the mouth. Not only does saliva assist in flushing away the bacteria and food particles that contribute to plaque buildup, but it also contains bicarbonate that helps to neutralize the acidity of the plaque.2 This is a crucial finding, as the more acidic that plaque is, the greater the chance of getting a cavity.
Additionally, saliva contains hydrogen peroxide, lactoferrin, and lysozymes, all antimicrobial compounds involved in combating any harmful microbial species in the mouth.3
#2: Improves The Eating and Speaking Experience
Saliva adds more moisture and lubrication to the mouth, making eating, speaking, and swallowing more comfortable and easy to complete. Furthermore, saliva has enzymes that break down food particles to start the digestive process, including amylase, lysozyme, and lipase.3
What Is Xerostomia? The Impact Of Dry Mouth On Oral Health
Saliva does a great job of flushing away excess bacteria in the mouth. That’s why dry mouth (or xerostomia) is characterized by a lack of saliva, which can increase an individual’s risk for various oral health concerns. This includes dental caries, gum disease, oral infections, and bad breath. The most common causes of dry mouth include:
- The aging process
- Lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and drinking
- Medications for certain health conditions can have side effects. Those medications include antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, diuretics, antihistamines, appetite suppressants, and anxiety medication.4
5 Tips for Increasing Saliva To Combat Dry Mouth
If you are struggling with xerostomia, here are a few best practices to stimulate your saliva production and improve your teeth and gum health with ease:
#1: Chew Sugar-Free Gum
The physical act of chewing is responsible for increasing the salivary flow in the mouth, making it the perfect solution for dry mouth. The American Dental Association has even approved the safety and efficacy of chewing gum.5 Just make sure that the gum you choose is sugar-free to avoid excess sugar sitting in the mouth and increasing the risk for cavities.
#2: Avoid Drying Foods and Drinks
Some of the most drying foods and beverages that contribute to dry mouth include:
- Coffee and teas
- Salty foods like crackers and chips
- Sugary foods and drinks like soda and candy
By controlling your intake of these foods and drinks and regularly consuming large quantities of water and other moist foods to stay hydrated, your saliva levels will increase in no time.
#3: Use Alcohol-Free Mouthwash
Mouthwash that contains alcohol in its ingredient list should be avoided at all costs when struggling with dry mouth. Always make sure to look for mouthwashes that specifically market themselves as alcohol-free.
#4: Curb Your Smoking Habit
In addition to making the risk for oral cancer 10x greater than non-smokers,6 smoking tobacco plays a considerable role in contributing to a dry mouth. For these reasons, quitting smoking will improve your salivary flow and overall oral health immensely.
#5: Visit A Dental Professional
Consulting with a dental professional will help you pinpoint the exact cause and treatment plan for your dry mouth. Additionally, there are a variety of oral rinses and medications that they can prescribe to help combat this issue.
Improve Saliva and Gum Health With Dental Implants & Periodontal Health Of Rochester
If you are concerned about your salivary flow and its effect on your gum health, the periodontal professionals at Dental Implants and Periodontal Health of Rochester are here to help. We offer various viable treatment options to combat both mild and severe cases of periodontal disease head-on. To get started, contact us online or call us at 585.685.2005 to set up your first appointment with our board-certified periodontists today.