Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children, and adults are also vulnerable to cavities. Dental sealants and topical fluoride treatments provide helpful defenses, but the most useful cavity-fighter might be right under your nose. Research from the American Society for Microbiology suggests that a key ingredient in saliva can help to protect your teeth from the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Keep reading to find out about the study and what it means for your oral health!
Salivary Mucins Protect Your Smile
Your saliva is made up of a few components, one of which is salivary mucins (the stuff in mucus). These mucins are sticky and can trap harmful agents in your mouth — like the bacteria that weakens tooth enamel to cause cavities. The mucins attach to the bacteria and encase it in their liquid medium, preventing the formation of plaque and tartar. The researchers say this is preferable to simply wiping out the bacteria because it preserves the natural balance in your mouth.
How to Boost Saliva Production
This news is encouraging — but unfortunately, many people do not produce enough saliva to protect the teeth from cavities. That is especially older adults who take certain medications that cause dry mouth as a side effect.
Having a properly hydrated mouth leads to fresher breath and a cleaner, healthier smile.
To help you increase the amount of saliva your mouth produces during the day, try to…
- Drink plenty of water. Pack a reusable water bottle as a reminder to sip throughout the day. Fill it up with tap water for a boost of the mineral fluoride, which also strengthens tooth enamel.
- Chew sugar free gum after meals and in the afternoon. Be careful — gum with sugar will also promote saliva production, but it increases your risk of cavities, too.
- Choose nutritious snacks like fresh apples, celery, and carrots. These crunchy fruits and vegetables help your mouth work up saliva when it may not have it otherwise.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Of course, making sure your mouth produces enough saliva isn’t the only thing you should do to prevent cavities. To keep decay, gum disease, and other oral health hazards at bay, patients of all ages should visit the dentist at least every six months. Your dental team can help you keep your smile healthy by regularly removing plaque and tartar and taking x-rays to check for potential problems lurking beneath the surface. And, if you are dealing with dry mouth, your dentist can also provide additional suggestions for boosting saliva production to help create a cleaner, fresher oral environment.
Think spit is gross? Think again — and be thankful for its ability to help you enjoy healthy smile!
About the Authors
Dr. Maha Hanna and Dr. Amanda Hanna are general dentists providing comprehensive dental care to patients in Long Beach, CA. To learn more about their services or to schedule an appointment, you are invited to contact the office at 562-630-2262.