The importance of saliva in our oral health

This involuntarily secreted clear liquid is composed of 99% water and 1% of both organic and inorganic molecules. 

On average, a person can secrete between 1 and 1.5 litres of saliva per day. This production reaches its lowest level at night, so that the antimicrobial action is reduced. For this reason, we dentists and hygienists give a greater emphasis on night-time brushing to maintain proper dental hygiene.

Benefits of saliva for our oral cavity

Saliva has several very beneficial functions for the health of our oral cavity:

- Regulates pH

Saliva balances the pH of the mouth, controlling the level of acids produced by plaque and by the food we eat.

- Antimicrobial action

It is able to carry away bacteria and eliminate microorganisms present in the oral cavity.

- Remineralises teeth

As it is loaded with minerals, it has the ability to repair enamel when it suffers minor demineralisation.

- Lubricates and protects teeth

Saliva protects the teeth, but also the gums. Thanks to saliva, the mouth retains the moisture it needs.

- Facilitates phonation

Thanks to the lubrication it provides, it facilitates the correct pronunciation of the different sounds produced when the tongue rests on the palate or on the teeth.

- Hinders the development of caries

Saliva is able to dilute the sugars present in certain foods. In this way, it slows down the process of formation of dental caries. It also fights bacteria and remineralises teeth, which makes it more difficult for cavities to develop.

- Healing effect

As the mouth is a moist cavity, wounds take longer to heal than in the rest of the body.

As a result, saliva has a healing effect that speeds up the healing process of various oral lesions, such as sores or canker sores.

- Contributes to swallowing

It helps to make chewing and swallowing easier.

It prepares the food bolus, facilitating the digestive process, protecting the oesophagus and preventing choking.

In addition, together with taste budssaliva enables better detection of food flavours.

- Helps diagnose other pathologies

The properties of saliva help in the diagnostic process of some pathologies. This is because the disease itself affects the composition of saliva to some extent. If you are unable to brush your teeth after eating, our advice is to chew sugarless chewing gum, which will increase the salivary flow in the mouth. Chewing gum will also prevent food debris from getting between your teeth. Another tip is to always keep your mouth hydrated and drink about two litres of water a day, not only during meals, to avoid having a dry mouth. 

These recommendations should not replace oral hygiene habits, but are complementary advice that will help to maintain good oral health. 

Saliva-related problems

There are a number of saliva-related diseases, most of which are related to the amount of saliva secreted.

Sialorrhoea or hypersalivation

It involves an excess in the amount of saliva secreted by a person. It is common in patients with neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In infants, some hypersalivation is normal. This action causes injury to adjacent areas of the mouth and can make speech difficult.

Xerostomia or dry mouth

It is a constant sensation of dryness in the mouth. It affects a large proportion of the population at some point in their lives, and can be related to a variety of conditions including:

  • Side effects of medicines: Many drugs cause this adverse effect. In particular, decongestants, antihistamines, analgesics, diuretics and specific drugs for depression. 
  • Systemic diseases: diseases such as diabetes, Hodgkin's and Parkinson's disease, AIDS, and Sjögren's syndrome can lead to dry mouth.
  • It is associated with cancer: Both radiotherapy of areas close to the oral cavity and chemotherapy can affect the functioning of the salivary glands.
  • Menopause: changes in hormone levels affect the salivary glands.

Sjögren's syndrome

It is an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from generating fluids, such as saliva and tears. The clearest consequence of this syndrome is xerostomia or dry mouth.

To maintain optimal levels of salivary secretion and avoid problems, we recommend eradicating or at least reducing the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.