Growing up, we are taught that the way to keeping your smile pretty is to brush and floss every day. In fact, we were told to go so far as to do it after EVERY MEAL. As a child, I found it to be incredibly difficult to keep up that promise, but a couple times a day was a bit more feasible with my mom’s constant reminders. What I didn’t know was that we are naturally given a tooth decaying weapon – saliva.
Yes, folks…the answer is already hanging out inside your mouth. See, tooth decay is something that happens when bacteria feeds off of the sugars we are consuming through food and drink. This plaque latches on to your teeth and begins to eat through the enamel on your teeth. Generally, we are under the impression that by brushing our teeth after every meal, there isn’t much time for this oral menace to do a whole lot of damage. But even more than that, when the saliva glands are activated in our mouths, it actually helps rinse off the bacteria naturally.
So what causes us to create this magical dental friend? Chewing. Every meal you eat, every snack you nosh on, every piece of bubble gum you chew is all helping to create the saliva that fights against germs and bad breath. But keep in mind, it takes 20 minutes for sugar to be cleared from your mouth after its consumption. The more often you are chewing on something sugary, the more often you are exposing your teeth to more bacteria, so try to keep these munching spurts less sugary and more healthy. Sugar-free gum & candy is great, but so is a handy bottle of water. Keeping a nice balance will not only get those salivary glands working, but will also help out the cause when you don’t have a toothbrush handy.
There are some conditions that will, in fact, prevent a healthy amount of saliva in our mouths. Certain medications or diseases can also affect the way your body produces saliva. Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is more likely to develop conditions like rapid tooth decay, gum disease, cavities or even bad breath. This may be able to be cured naturally by drinking lots of water and chewing on sugar-free gum or candy, but more than likely, you should have a medical professional give you their opinion as it could be preventable.
If you are on the other side of the spectrum, you are producing too much saliva. Overactive glands could be affected by something as simple as taste buds reacting to spicy foods, to something much more serious, like poisoning or stroke. And while it is generally fixable, you may need a doctor to prescribe you something if it is an actual health condition causing the excessive saliva.
Saliva is your mouth’s first line of defense when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy. It is nature’s disinfecting cavity fighter. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your teeth healthy, both at home and when visiting a dental professional. You don’t have to brush your teeth…Just the ones you want to keep!
For more information regarding oral health, contact our office today!